There’s something special about the whimsical clay models used to illustrate Usborne’s First Picture ABC book, and — together with its sturdy construction and choice words — this is an excellent book to introduce to a young family. Buy it for yourself or give it as a gift to new parents — it’ll be appreciated!

The DFF Book Club

UK-based Usborne has a long tradition of publishing quality books — so much so that I always look first for their trademark hot-air-balloon logo on the spine of books in op shops. And this book is so good that we have two copies — one for our home base and one to take with us while we’re on the road.

The Usborne First Picture ABC by Jo Litchfield and Caroline Young
From the rounded corners to the very thick, well finished pages — this is a durable book well-built for outlasting babies and toddlers.

Although it’s not clear from my photos, each page of the book is finished in a combination matte and gloss finish. The glossy finish over each picture makes the illustrations “pop” out of the page and make you feel like touching them.

The Usborne First Picture ABC by Jo Litchfield and Caroline Young
The first obvious difference between this alphabet book and others is the emphasis on little letters rather than capital letters. The images are bright and colourful with a variety of words used that are sometimes not seen in simpler alphabet books.

My favourite Usborne illustrator was always Stephen Cartwright (who died in 2004) until Jo Litchfield started creating clay models for Usborne books. In this interview she reveals that she learned to make models through practice — without any formal training. (Sounds like unschooling, no?)

The Usborne First Picture ABC by Jo Litchfield and Caroline Young
Tricky letters like 'q' and 'x' are handled with a few simple examples of the letter in use. (And I think "quack" is a particularly good toddler-appropriate example of the q-sound.)

My all-time favourite word in this book is “ugly”, which is written underneath a particularly ugly fish. I find it fascinating to see this word in an alphabet book. It is a good word to know — however subjective — and the ugly fish makes me giggle. (Jo Litchfield has said that she would love to illustrate a book of creative monsters, and I think the ugly fish fulfils part of that desire.)

The Usborne First Picture ABC by Jo Litchfield and Caroline Young
The last page of the book displays all capital and little letters together with a relevant picture. It's a nice summary without cluttering up the main pages.

The illustrations are interesting enough to engage our older children who like to go through and read the words or discuss the pictures. We’ve left this book out while older children are around, and I’ve seen an 11-year-old looking through it.

Delaney reading a book, September 2011
This book is a family favourite and perfect for children aged from one to about three years old.

This book is currently out of stock at Book Depository but worth checking for later. However many copies are available via AbeBooks and Amazon. It may also be available via your local Usborne rep.