All Around the Block:

An Alphabet

Hardcover sale price: $10.00 (Regularly $16.95)

This playful alphabet, lush with surprising details and limned in delicate colors, was inspired by that familiar and beloved nursery companion – the alphabet block. As re-imagined by artist Judy Pelikan, each letter of the alphabet takes possession of its own face, covering, carving, painting, and manipulating the surface of the block in a variety of inventive and unexpected ways.

Pelikan approaches humble wooden cubes as points of entry into a magical world, one of surprising objects, exotic animals, intimate landscapes, and delicate balances. Every face is decorated with images related to its letter: the Painter’s Pointillist block introduces a Pitcher and Pearls and one-Point Perspective, while a Tolstoy Tome straightens a Teetering Tea Table (set with a complete, and minute, Tea service). And some are not quite blocks at all: a Folded strip of Film follows sandy Footprints past a Friend’s cowrie shell while a quartet of Jaunty Jacks squares up to form a miniature house of cards. Each page offers up its own intriguing and challenging little world, a combination of the best of Kate Greenaway’s color and M.C. Escher’s mystery and visual disconnects.

On the verso, facing each block, is the upper and lower case letter, redrawn after the forms of Paul Renner’s simple, modern Futura typeface, elegant counterpoints to the fascinating, minutely detailed pencil-and-watercolor illustrations. This is small enough for a child to handle, and sophisticated enough for an adult to appreciate. It is a little bijou of a book.

Judy Pelikan lives in the North Country of New Hampshire. She has illustrated many books, among them the New York Times bestseller Grandmother Remembers.