City Alphabet

City Alphabet

by Joanne Schwartz
     
 

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The urban landscape is alive with words. You only have to look to find them — bold, brassy and obvious, or hidden, secret and mysterious. It’s this intriguing aspect of the city that Matt Beam has captured in his photographs — words spray-painted on walls, etched in concrete, carved into wood, stuck onto glass. He and Joanne Schwartz have

Overview


The urban landscape is alive with words. You only have to look to find them — bold, brassy and obvious, or hidden, secret and mysterious. It’s this intriguing aspect of the city that Matt Beam has captured in his photographs — words spray-painted on walls, etched in concrete, carved into wood, stuck onto glass. He and Joanne Schwartz have collaborated to create a visually arresting alphabet book that documents the random occurrences of language all around us. The result is an edgy catalogue of words from "art" to "zoo" that inspires us all to look more closely. This beautifully designed book is a treasure for those who love to explore and engage with the city in which they live.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The cover image of this photographic alphabet book will immediately grab readers' attention—it's an old metal sign that says “CITY,” its big orange letters against a clear blue sky. The other photographs, shot in Toronto by YA author Beam (Earth to Nathan Blue), are quieter meditations on the idea that, in the city, words are everywhere, the opening salvos in ongoing conversations. On the left-hand pages, each letter of the alphabet appears in upper and lower case, along with a museumlike tag about the medium of the word photographed on the facing page (“vinyl decals stuck on glass”) and the location where it was found (“Construction barrier”; “Back-alley shed”). Beam's photos contain muted emotion, like the floating “no” on a newspaper box above a weathered image that looks oddly human, or the “forever” crudely etched in concrete next to a withered leaf. Schwartz (Our Corner Grocery Store) and Beam both contribute to the afterword, which explains the genesis of the project. Stark, metallic and urban, these images may encourage children to think about alternate ways of seeing their surroundings. All ages. (Aug.)
Children's Literature - Sylvia Firth
Usually, alphabet books are meant to be used as a teaching tool for young children. But this volume is probably more useful for teachers of older children to help them become more observant of their urban surroundings. It could also foster creative writing projects and discussions. Art teachers may find this a helpful aid to demonstrate unusual uses of art forms and objects. In the book's development, photographer Matt Beam explored the city of Toronto to capture intriguing photos of words ranging from "art" to "junk" to "meet" to "queen" to "zoo." They appear on all sorts of surfaces, including cement, steel, vinyl flooring, wood, concrete, glass, paper, a metal grate, and aluminum. In addition to spray paint, many diverse materials and forms make up the words. These include letters painted by hand or with a stencil, vinyl decals, markers, letters carved into a tree trunk, aluminum letters laid in cement, and "forever" etched on the sidewalk. If this book fits a need in the curriculum, consider it for purchase. Reviewer: Sylvia Firth
School Library Journal
Gr 4 Up—This art book follows the letters of the alphabet found in words printed on signs, etched in concrete, and painted on various surfaces in downtown Toronto. Each photograph is paired with a clean white page containing the particular letter (in both upper and lowercase) and the featured word (printed in a clean bold font). Though the photos are clear, the lettering is occasionally indistinct and conveys the individuality of the people who created the original markings. The medium (including spray paint, vinyl decals, and ink) and location of each image are identified (e.g., for "Love," the caption reads, "Carved in wood. Tree-trunk monument"). Most inspiring is the potential for youngsters to use this urban alphabet as motivation to go out and find words where they live, discuss their purpose, and hear their own city speaking to them.—Lisa Glasscock, Columbine Public Library, Littleton, CO
Kirkus Reviews
Almost an artist's book rather than a book for children, this artfully constructed alphabet book holds its strength in design rather than beauty, although a few of the images are incidentally beautiful. For each opening, the verso holds a capital and lower-case letter, a single word beginning with that letter and a phrase describing the medium of the image in the photograph opposite, in which the word appears: "Ll / Love / Carved in wood. Tree-trunk monument." The letters themselves are dropped out, filled in with a piece of their photograph: The letters Qq are printed in the pattern of the vinyl flooring of the decal shadows that make the word "queen." Beam took these photographs of words in the city of Toronto; the text was written by author and children's librarian Schwartz. The words, as one might imagine, tend to the random-"brute," "evoke," "um." Fascinating, but probably more for young adults than for children. It will certainly have readers seeing their own cities with new eyes. (Picture book. 10 & up)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780888999627
Publisher:
Groundwood Books
Publication date:
05/01/2011
Pages:
60
Product dimensions:
9.90(w) x 6.90(h) x 0.30(d)
Age Range:
3 - 5 Years

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