According to the Opies, the nursery rhyme ‘A was an apple-pie’ was ‘well known in the reign of Charles II’ and by the nineteenth century ‘was a favourite for ABC instruction’. Kate Greenaway’s A Apple Pie, for example, which was published in 1886, introduces the letters A to Z while following the fortunes of an apple pie. Now we have Alison Murray’s version, Apple Pie ABC.
The (A) apple pie has been made and, while (B) baking in the oven and then (C) cooling, it attracts the attention of a small dog. While his owner sternly keeps him away from the pie, the dog devises a clever way to sneak in and tip it off the kitchen table so that he can gobble it up. Murray approaches her narrative with a lively wit so that the reader identifies, via action sequences and lively juxtapositions, with the dog and its stratagems.
Murray’s background in textile design serves her well as an illustrator. There is clear typography (each letter of the alphabet given in upper case against a plain background) with elegantly pared down illustrations distinguished by tones made with patterns and textures. The book is printed on satisfyingly thick stock with a matt finish. Pleasure is increased with an interesting and challenging choice of words, as in (O) ‘ogle it’ and (P) ‘pine for it’. As befits a book about apple pie: delicious!