Posted on | January 31, 2012 | 15 Comments
If you continue reading this post, you are agreeing to keep the details revealed herein TOP SECRET. The only people who already know what I am going to share with you are:
Shhhh! Make sure no-one is looking over your shoulder as I reveal to you……
Previously highly classified, this action packed tale of derring-do has now been sanctioned for release to a few, highly trusted readers. This story is for your eyes only.
This is the tale of one young boy, named Charlie Foxtrot (a great code name, don’t you agree?), who succumbs to a terrible case of the Alphabet-A-Heebiegeebies.
At school Charlie is due to be tested on his knowledge of the alphabet but is struggling with his ABCs. But all is not lost – this is a perfect case for the clandestine department known as the Ministry of Letters (responsible for creating all the words you and I read each day – just imagine their POWER!).
The SAS (that’s Special Alphabet Service, by the way – not those imposters that call themselves the Special Air Service) swing into action to save Charlie Foxtrot from a terrible fate, although along the way the lives of the SAS themselves are threatened… But with the help of a Royal relative and an all singing-all-dancing Capital display, the SAS save the day. The Ministry of Letters succeeds in its top secret mission and remain ready and waiting for their next call to arms…
With Operation Alphabet Al MacCuish (the author), Jim Bletsas (the designer) and Luciano Lozano (the illustrator) have created a debut picture book which has it all. Mystery, adventure, silly songs, opportunities to hum your favourite film and tv music and put on terrible accents, and bags and bags of panache.
The pacey plot, full of intrigue, is a huge hit with my kids (they adore the idea of being let in on a secret they mustn’t share), and it’s a while since I’ve had as much fun reading a book aloud; for those of us with a penchant for drama and tom-foolery this book is a dream to share. Like the Traction Man stories of Mini Grey, I couldn’t help but read this with a terrible attempt at a Sean Connery voice, occasionally breaking into snatches of James Bond or the A-Team theme music.
The book as a physical object is also a lovely thing to hold. Lozano’s illustrations are a homage to the best of 1960s design, in browns and oranges that exude vintage class (I was immediately reminded of this recent post on the wonderful blog Vintage Kids’ Books my Kid Loves). The hardback book, at 64 pages long, with a beautiful dust jacket that doubles as an alphabet poster, is sumptuous to look at and to hold – an ideal gift.
Initially I had my doubts about the theme of the book (learning the alphabet) and its target audience (this is a perfect picture book for slightly older kids, say 4-8); the text is quite long for a picture book, the illustrations (whilst wonderful) are not typical kiddie fare and so I wondered if older children who are already well past the stage of learning to write the alphabet would still enjoy this book. But I need not have worried – the 7 year olds I’ve read it to (all of whom are happy reading and writing by themselves) have loved the story, it’s humour, and the secrecy that surrounds it. Just like them I will never look at a letter box in the same light again.
Inspired by the SAS who parachute in to Charlie’s room to help him learn the alphabet we created our own parachuting set of letters.
Here’s what we used:
We basically followed the instructions in this youtube clip, but substituted alphabet magnets for toy soldiers:
Once our SAS detail was ready, we launched them out of the windows upstairs in our house:
We were launching our parachutes until dark –> definitely a great activity to try out with or without kids, the hardest thing being finding a high enough launch site.
Whilst making our parachutes we listened to:
My go-to source for great children’s music, Zooglobble, has this great list of alphabet themed children’s songs, many of which will appeal hugely to adults too!
Other activities that would be fun to do alongside reading Operation Alphabet include:
Now don’t forget, everything you’ve read here today is TOP SECRET. Do not share your knowledge of The Ministry of Letters and the SAS with anyone. Remember:
And if you can keep this secret, come back tomorrow when I have an amazing giveaway bundle of Operation Alphabet artefacts….