Oliver Jeffers fights clichés and creates an inventive alphabet book that addresses all ages

Oliver Jeffers, Once upon an Alphabet. Short stories for all the letters

Published 2014 by HarperCollins, 112p


If words make up stories, and letters make up words, then stories are made of letters. In this menagerie we have stories made of words, made for all the letters.


Oliver Jeffers makes wonders again and turns the classic alphabet into something original, modern and witty. Each letter is given its own story. No more A for apple, B for ball, C for cat etc.

This alphabet speaks about emotions, inventions, fears and dreams.

A is for Astronaut. Edmund was an astronaut and most of his life he had been training to go on an adventure in the space. But there was one small problem – Edmund was afraid of heights.



O is for Onward.



Out on the ocean there/ is an owl who rides on/ the back of an octopus./ they search for problems./ They solve them./ They move on.

S is for sink or swim. A cucumber watched a programme about sea cucumbers and decided to become one and move into the sea. Not taking into account that he couldn’t swim, the cucumber sank straight to the bottom.

V is for Victor the Vanquished


Z is for Zeppelin. Edmund, the astronaut in the story for letter A made a progress,  bought a Zeppelin and managed to leave the ground.

There are connections between stories and even with characters from other books by Jeffers. The owl and the octopus help Xavier in X to find a thief and they also help the penguin and the little boy from Lost and Found.

This book is definitely more than an alphabet book. It is 120 pages of linguistic inventiveness, subtle humour and cleverness.

Complement Once upon an Alphabet with two other stunning stories signed Oliver Jeffers: This Moose Belongs to Me and The Heart and the Bottle.


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