The Alef­bet Illuminated

Alex J. Rajic
  • Review
By – September 1, 2011
This beau­ti­ful, over­sized pic­ture book is the per­fect way to dis­cov­er the Hebrew alpha­bet for chil­dren just begin­ning to learn to rec­og­nize the sounds and sym­bols of the basic twen­ty-two sym­bols that make up the Alef­bet. Inspired by an illus­trat­ed Hag­gadah by artist Arthur Szyk which he received from his grand­par­ents at a young age, Rajic uses the medieval and renais­sance tra­di­tion of rich and vibrant illu­mi­na­tions of man­u­scripts with a mod­ern, con­tem­po­rary twist that is whim­si­cal and engag­ing. Each dou­ble spread page depicts an ani­mal in a love­ly nature set­ting whose name begins with the cor­re­spond­ing let­ter; a fun and delight­ful poem using allit­er­a­tion accom­pa­nies each detailed paint­ing and is help­ful to begin­ning read­ers in learn­ing the sounds that go with the let­ter. The name of the let­ter is also pre­sent­ed in bold­face type on the left-hand side of the page with the Hebrew sym­bol to pro­vide phono­log­i­cal aware­ness and high­light­ed by allur­ing, flow­ing bor­ders. A com­plete chart of the whole Alef­bet and a glos­sary of the Hebrew words at the end of the book aid in mak­ing this a valu­able learn­ing tool. The artist states in the intro­duc­tion to the book, that learn­ing Hebrew, even at the most basic lev­el, is pos­si­bly one of the most essen­tial and uni­fy­ing acts of becom­ing a mem­ber of the Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty” and has cre­at­ed a com­pan­ion col­or­ing book for free to down­load at www​.ceno​zoic​press​.com/​t​i​t​l​e​s.htm. This enchant­i­ng title would be a won­der­ful addi­tion to all size Jew­ish col­lec­tions and the per­fect present for gift giv­ing. For ages 6 and up.
Debra Gold has been a children’s librar­i­an for over 20 years in the Cuya­hoga Coun­ty Pub­lic Library Sys­tem. An active mem­ber of the ALA, she has served on many com­mit­tees includ­ing the Calde­cott, New­bery and Batchelder committees.

Discussion Questions