Rather than using boring photographs or nondescript artwork by one or two artists to illustrate an alphabet book, why not use the existing works of some of the world’s greatest artists to introduce babies and toddlers to the world of art at the same time? Behold: My First ABC by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Instead of the usual photo or cartoon apple for the letter ‘A’, you get a still-life painting by no less than Paul Cezanne; for ‘D’, the word ‘dancer’ is illustrated using The Dancing Class by Edgar Degas.
Each letter is illustrated using the work of a different artist, and the choices are varied, unexpected and intriguing — there’s even a wall painting from Ancient Egypt! Only the relevant part of each painting is shown to help babies focus and identify the object being highlighted, but a useful index is included at the back with thumbnails of the full paintings and information about their origins — something that would be much appreciated by parents.
I wasn’t sure if some of the more abstract pages would be a turn-off to my daughter, but she has been surprisingly receptive: a few days after we read the book once, we happened to see a brochure of a ballerina — in a pose that is uncannily similar to Degas’s — and she immediately pointed her out and said matter-of-factly: “Dancer.” Now, who says age is a factor in the appreciation of art and/or beauty?