The iconic illustrations of the American painter and illustrator Charley Harper (1922–2007) are given an A-Z makeover in this fabulous boardbook for children.

Many of the images seem eerily familiar… which is not so surprising when you learn that Charley illustrated for the Childcraft Library series as well as for many Golden Press books back in the 1960s. That means that an entire generation of children (namely ours…) grew up with Charley’s work.

For an A-Z there aren’t too many surprises here – D is still for Dog, O is for Owl, although who would have guessed that W was for Web (with its accompanying diverse set of prey). The images offer plenty to explore, but the big drawcard – and it is indeed very big – is that this collection of 26 works teaches children as much about art as they do about the alphabet.

There are elements of cubism in the elephants, aspects of geometric abstraction in the zebras, and minimal realism in the hen.

Often credited with helping to protect and preserve nature, when asked about his ‘minimal realism’ style of art, Charley said: “I see exciting shapes, color combinations, patterns, textures, fascinating behaviours and endless possibilities. I regard the picture as an ecosystem which all the elements are interrelated, interdependent, perfectly balanced, without trimming or unutilized parts; and herein lies the lure of painting; in a world of chaos, the picture is one small rectangle in which the artist can create an ordered universe.”

FUN FACT  You can celebrate Charley Harper Day on December 8 – it’s an officially recognised day in his hometown of Cincinnati.