Maura Pierlot and Jorge Garcia Redondo – Alphabetter

Affirm Press, Australia, 2024
Cover design and internal Stephanie Spartels @ Affirm Press
Cover illustrations Jorge Garcia Redondo

The question of how early one should teach ethics to children and in what form is at the heart of this book. Maura Pierlot posits a convincing argument with this work for its early introduction.

Barbie spoke to Maura Pierlot about Alphabetter

In using the traditional form of the alphabet book, she cleverly redirects our reading and thinking to meaningful content, to ideas rather than the objects usually found in such works. A is for Apple becomes A is for Adventurous.

The book also departs from its traditional cousins by speaking directly to the reader or listener – for example, as well as providing synonyms for adventurous, it asks: How can you be adventurous? Naturally this will elicit all sorts of imaginative and bold ideas from young readers and listeners.

The selection of the A to Z of concepts of ‘goodness’ is interesting as it ventures into both social conscience (inclusive) and the affective domain (joyful). The author includes short texts to reassure her readers and argue for the quality represented on each page, giving concrete examples of what it means, for example, to be yourself.

There has been a conscious decision in this book to represent many different children – skin colour, physical characteristics, religion, ability, interests, personalities are all on show here in their glorious diversity. The artist makes the point very clearly in his collections of all sorts of children while the author has remained firmly neutral in her language.

Of course, there is an agenda here, one that espouses positivity, curiosity, openness and courage in approaching everyday life. It is a message equally fitting for children and their adults and posed in such a way that most people, no matter their age, will easily identify with the characters, situations and ideas depicted.

Jorge Garcia Redondo succeeds in portraying a vast range of emotions with his clear simple scenarios and clever renditions of facial expressions and body language. His bold, colourful palette is visually appealing. Young readers will no doubt delight in finding details on each page from footy scarves to their favourite animals, activities they themselves enjoy and objects they own or would like.

Looked at most simply, Alphabetter is a morality text, a book that will enable adults to share values and virtues with their young people. Its clarity and forthright approach to discussing such things is refreshing and certainly meets a need in contemporary society.

How much better that it is framed without a particularised context of an organised religion or set of beliefs, but rather from a wholistic human view. It invites everyone to be an active participant in ethical thinking and behaviour, to consider what it is to be a worthy citizen and human being. And for this especially, I applaud both author and artist.

Thank you to Affirm Press for my review copy and to Maura for a satisfying discussion about ethics, education and the purpose of this book.