Subscribe to The Horn Book

The Steampunk Alphabet

Having just finished China Mieville’s Railsea, I was in a steampunk kinda mood when I entered the Horn Book office on Friday morning and, as I passed the “Out of the Box” box, saw Nathanael Iwata’s The Steampunk Alphabet (Cameron + Company, June 2013) right at the top of the pile. Perfect.

This book is exactly as it sounds: it is a children’s steampunk alphabet. Beginning with “A” and moving through to “Z,” each letter of the alphabet is equipped with a bold, and colorful illustration of an artifact and an explanation of its use. The alphabet begins quite classically — “A for apple” — but the illustration makes it clear that this is no ordinary apple: it appears to be wooden and is covered with dials and gears, has a keyhole, and is emitting a cloud of smoke. The description informs us that the apple is “an apple-shaped music box made to revere/ The Capital’s founding of two hundred years” and that the item is “rare, as most of them were lost in the colony wars.”

The Steampunk Alphabet continues in this vein, depicting one unique steam-powered item after the next (a magnetic nest, an armored umbrella, a mechanical fish), all presumably from a past the reader must decipher from the textual clues. While the linear story that these items relate back to remains a mystery, the imaginative building of that tale can be fantastically fun.

Though Iwata has succumbed to the use of verse to make it clear that his work is for children, The Steampunk Alphabet is an enjoyable read. In my opinion, this alphabet book is really for the parent who wants a twist on the “A is for apple” setup. The adult reader can create her own imaginative steampunk past while reading aloud perfectly kid-comprehensible “F is for fish, G is for goggles, H is for helmet” sentences.

Overall, an odd, but very cool book.

Click here for more recommended steampunk.

Siân Gaetano About Siân Gaetano

Siân Gaetano is assistant editor for The Horn Book, Inc. Follow her on Twitter @KidLitChick.

Comment Policy:
  1. Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  2. Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  3. Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through (though some comments with links to multiple URLs are held for spam-check moderation by the system). If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.

We accept clean XHTML in comments, but don't overdo it and please limit the number of links submitted in your comment. For more info, see the full Terms of Use.

Speak Your Mind