A is for artisanal. And for Alphabet. And for eggplant, car, and oh, whatever else springs to mind
Back when I was looking for things for the perfect nursery — practically the first and last time I used pinterest, come to think of it — I got a little obsessive about prints for Doozer’s room. Brightly coloured farm animals. Brightly coloured animals of the non-farm variety. Brightly coloured sea creatures. Brightly coloured shapes and abstract patterns and, of course, brightly coloured alphabets.
Because who doesn’t love vintage typography? And beautiful things?
No one. Or rather no one we know. Everyone we know has very good taste, apparently, because we ended up with lots of beautiful alphabet things, which we enjoyed looked at with Doozer in lots of different ways, describing the animals, shapes, pictures and… then…
…Then: he started becoming interested in letters. He started pulling us to the side of the pavement to point out letters in shop windows, pointing out the ones he recognised and naming other words they were in. And he started thinking about the alphabet prints and books in a different way. And I noticed that there really is such a thing as “good” and “bad” alphabet books.
I started getting quite picky in terms of quality control in 26-word books, and utterly irate about the whole question of style over substance.
A good A-Z book, print, frieze or whatever, appears to have short, simple identifiable words. Yes. We all know there aren’t an infinite number of those, and no, don’t worry, you’re unlikely to be accused of plagiarism for using Apple, Ball and Cat again. You know why? Because most toddlers know what apples, balls and cats are. That’s just the way it is.
Yes, things can still be beautiful, but holy shit, there is only so much room for synonyms inside a toddler brain. And it does seem more than a little confusing, saying "Oh, yes, that IS an aeroplane, but it’s not A for aeroplane. But yes, that is the same picture you saw on that pa… no, it’s not P for plane either. It is, apparently, in this case, J. For Jet. "
And that’s before you even get started with the glory that is trying to explain the ABC print that you bought in the flush of late pregnancy not realising that one day, one day, your child would somehow not understand that alphabets in different languages might be a little confusing.
I mean, I still love this one that we’ve had for almost three years. But by gum, it’s bloody useless.
But that’s my fault for being pretentious and buying German A-Z posters. The English language authors have no excuse.
Please: Let apples be apples. If you can’t afford an illustrator good enough to draw a recognizable zip, a zebra will do fine. And if any of you DARE to include a picture of a pachyderm on the “J” page and argue that ”J” is for “Jumbo” (WHAT?) ever again, I will come round to your house and stick an elephant up your jacksy. Thank you.
PS: You should also never use J is for Jacksy.