Operation Alphabet

Operation Alphabet is the brainchild of art director Al MacCuish. It’s illustrated by Luciano Lozano and designed by Jim Bletsas. Their favorite words are diplodocus, shelter, and ‘toodle-oo, buckeroo‘ respectively, so, you know, they rule for having favorite words. Mine is eyeball. True story.

I can’t give away too much because the book warned me multiple times that its content is TOP SECRET. I’m certainly one to obey letters, so I will comply with that order. But what you can know is that Charlie Foxtrot is doing pretty terrible in school, and the Ministry of Letters concocts a plan of attack to help. And a Duchess rides a motorbike, so there’s that.

And while it’s certainly a departure from a typical picture book as it runs 64 pages and LOTS of words, it’s a fun novelty with stellar pictures.

…and dizzying endpapers!

I love how this title page feels like the first page of a super-secret-need-to-know-basis-very-important file.

Underneath this fun mylar (!) jacket is a poster of all the letters. I love this trend; it’s seen in another favorite alphabet book, Paul Thurlby’s Alphabet.

The color palette is restrained, yet rich and strikingly retro.

Because the letters have such life and function as characters in the book, perhaps typography is not the best choice for which design consideration to highlight. But! The seamless mixture of letter and form into a character study is surely part of the craft of composing type. And because truly, I think the typography graphic above matches the other colors in this post.

And it’s my blog, so I can do silly things like that and blame it on being crazed by the art.

{You can explore the Ministry of Letters yourself at this fun site.}

The illustrations have some really, really fun details. I love the balloon wielding cat above, presumably scribbled on the wall by Charlie Foxtrot.

What about this grumpy raincloud? Poor thing.

{ I’m slightly obsessed with Mrs. Foxtrot’s pink plaid coat. Do they make that for real life people?}

And that’s the Duchess. She wears orange goggles and green galoshes. Kate Middleton’s not the only stylish royal around!

Operation Alphabet is a winner. A kooky, unusual, breaks-all-the-rules, beautiful book.


  • Posted April 24, 2012 at 11:27 pm | Permalink

    Raises hand for operation find Mrs. Foxtrot’s pink plaid coat.

  • Posted April 25, 2012 at 10:16 am | Permalink


  • laurenhamp
    Posted April 30, 2012 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    Wow i really love your blog site! Some of these picture books are incredible! I am actually an artist and I am working on a picture book for a friend of mine. Do you have any recommendations for how to go about adding text to my water color paintings?

  • Posted April 30, 2012 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, Lauren, and welcome! Do you do any digital work in addition to watercolor? If you used Photoshop to lay out your text you could take advantage of the beautiful texture of the watercolor paper by using blending modes or treating the opacity or edges. Good luck! Are you familiar with SCBWI? Check it out and think about joining…you will find a large and welcoming community of writers and illustrators! http://www.scbwi.org/

  • laurenhamp
    Posted April 30, 2012 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

    Those are some good ideas. I have photoshop and I have made a few digital pieces, so I should be able to figure it out. I really am interested in learning how to treat the edges of the picture. I will look into SCBWI too!