The Alphabet of Alphabets was a great project to work on. When Amanda Wood and Mike Jolley first approached me with the idea I knew immediately that it would be lots of fun. Mandy and Mike have made some great books together so I jumped at the chance to work with them and Wide Eyed Editions.
The idea for The Alphabet of Alphabets is quite simple – 26 illustrated alphabets from A-Z. A is for Alphabet, B is for Birds, C is for Creepy-crawlies, and so on. Within each alphabet there’s a whole other alphabet of things to find. On D is for Dinosaurs there is an A to Z of dinosaurs from Apatosaurus to Zuniceratops. On I for Inventions, you have to find everything from an Abacus to a Zeppelin. With 26 different alphabets, our book has got over 600 words to find!
The first stage in making an alphabet for each letter was to agree on a theme. For J we came up with a few possibles – Junk shop, Jazz, Japan, or an alphabet of Jelly! After a bit of discussion we agreed that J for Jungle was the best idea as it offered a wide range of words to learn and lots of fun things to draw.
To come up with our Jungle alphabet we had a good think about all the kinds of things you might find in a Jungle. Mandy is very knowledgeable about natural history and she came up with lots of unusual animals that were really useful for our alphabet. The Quoll, Kinkajou and Numbat were all new animals to me.
I’ll admit I’ve never been to an actual Jungle but I knew the kind of feel I wanted – somewhere dark with dense green foliage. I did some research from books and watched some Tarzan movies. We wanted to make sure our Jungle had a good mix of animals, plants, and funny characters.
Some letters of the alphabet are tricky – Q, Z, X & U are unusual and there aren’t many words in the English language that start with those letters. Working on each alphabet, If we couldn’t think of anything for the letter U, we would be a bit cheeky and have underpants as the thing to find! Even if we did have a letter U, we decided to include underpants in the picture anyway!
In the Jungle you have to find a Ulysses butterfly but we also included an explorer with a map and he is looking for the lost Underpants! Our jungle has the ruins of an ancient city hidden amongst the undergrowth so I liked the idea of an explorer with an old map looking for something important. Everybody has lost a pair of underpants somewhere but imagine losing them in a jungle. You’d definitely need a map to find them again!
I hope kids will enjoy finding all of the things in the Jungle. Once they have found everything on the list they can try and find more things in the picture. Often there is more than one thing beginning with each letter. Once they have exhausted the book (it will take some time!) they could think about the different alphabets around them. You could come up with an alphabet for where you live, or an alphabet of your favourite foods, or an alphabet of all the countries in the world. You can have a lot of fun thinking about alphabets!
The most difficult alphabet to complete was W for things to Wear. We came up with the idea of a character wearing 26 alphabetical items of clothing – all at the same time! That doesn’t sound like such a big deal but you should try wearing that many items of clothing whilst retaining any kind of fashion sense. Things can get pretty silly, pretty fast…
The Alphabet of Alphabets is the 10th non-fiction title that I’ve worked on. I feel that I have learnt a lot from all the books that I have illustrated, but with 26 alphabets to draw this was definitely the biggest project I’ve ever done. It was a real pleasure to work with Mandy & Mike and the lovely team at Wide Eyed Editions. I hope we can make another book together soon.
The Alphabet of Alphabets, created by Mike Jolley and Amanda Wood and illustrated by Allan Sanders, is published by Wide Eyed Editions.
Allan Sanders studied at Manchester University and the Royal College of Art. Over the last 15 years Allan has worked on animations for the FIFA World Cup website, illustrations for French road safety agency Sécuritié Routière, Animations and posters for the Oregon Humane Society’s ‘End Petlessness’ campaign, Children’s books including Perfectly Perilous Math, Little Explorers and How Machines Work, and editorial projects for Magazines & Newspapers worldwide including The New Yorker and The Economist. Allan lives in Brighton.
For more information about Allan see:
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