MAY 14:

  • Happy birthday Eoin Colfer (Artemis Fowl series).
  • It’s the birth date of Hal Borland (1900-1978), When the Legends Die, and George Selden Thompson (1929-1989), The Cricket in Times Square.
  • Best birthday wishes to Mark Zuckerberg, cofounder of Facebook. Read Face by Benjamin Zephaniah and It’s a Book by Lane Smith.
  • It’s National Chicken Dance Day. Read Chicken Joy on Redbean Road: A Bayou Country Romp by Jacqueline Briggs Martin, illustrated by Melissa Sweet; and Chicken Dance by Tammi Sauer, illustrated by Dan Santat.

This week we celebrate Children’s Book Week. Our book of the day is one that Carol Rasco from Reading Is Fundamental—who should be given sainthood for her tireless efforts on behalf of children and reading—recommended to me. Although we know that children want reading to be fun, our preschool books for children often tend to inform rather than entertain. But Maria van Lieshout’s Backseat A-B-See combines both qualities in equal measure.

The license plate on the front cover of this engaging title says “ABC*FUN.”  Van Lieshout created the book when she noticed how much enjoyment her son found in looking at road signs. She begins this graphically stunning book by asking “From the backseat, what do you see?” Then readers are treated to a special alphabet, one that they can view while driving along in the car: A for Airport; I for Interstate; L for Library; Q for Quack (a duck sign); X for a “Children Crossing” sign. Using a deep black background the artist makes sure that the signs stand out brilliantly on the page. The book ends with the “Wrong Way” sign, and readers will agree that they’ll want to go back and see all these visually exciting pages again.

In the process, of course, they will also learn both the letters of the alphabet and the safety signs. I myself found out that some of these signs were designed by an AIGA (American Institute for Graphic Arts) team of Seymour Chwast, Roger Cook, and Dan Shanosky and given the Presidential Award for Design Excellence in 1984. This is why everyone should read preschool books—because adults can also learn from them.

This has been a fabulous season for preschool books that will turn children into readers. Along with Backseat A-B-See, we’ve had Laura Vaccaro Seeger’s Greenand Erin Stead’s And Then It’s Spring. This Sunday I reviewed in the New York Times Kelly Bingham’s and Paul O. Zelinsky’s Z Is for Moose. These four books certainly convince me that Reading Is Fun. Since we are in the middle of a new baby boomlet, I am so happy to see that extremely talented creators have been paying attention to the needs of our youngest readers.

Vroom, vroom, vroom. I’m off in the car to look at signs. I hope you have an entire week celebrating the joy of reading.

Here’s a page from Backseat A-B-See:


Originally posted May 14, 2012. Updated for .

Tags: Transportation
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for Backseat A-B-See


  1. Thank you, Anita, for your kind words about RIF and about me, i appreciate having a publicist! In addition the “signs” book you listed two of my very favorites as well; I am mesmerized by GREEN and love children’s reactions and giggles to Z Is for Moose! Thank you again for your ongoing support!

  2. McCourt says:

    Another great one to add to my list for my son, who loves to point out signs when we drive (which is a lot since we are always running around his big sisters). Personally I smile every time I see a library sign! Thanks for the recommendation.

  3. Thanks for the post, Anita! Very happy to be lumped in with Laura Vaccaro Seeger, Paul Zelinsky and Erin Stead. Not only am I a BIG fan of their work, but my two year old loves their books too.

  4. Great reccomendations, Anita, and thank you so much for the spectacular review in the NYT!! I’m so glad you liked MOOSE, and I hope your enthusiasm helps many readers find their way to the book. Best wishes, Kelly Bingham

  5. MInna says:

    I am mesmerized by GREEN and love children’s reactions and giggles to Z Is for Moose

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