Minnesota's Hidden Alphabet
Find it at your library or you can ...
David LaRochelle
author, David LaRochelle
author's website
photographer, Joe Rossi
Minnesota Historical Society Press
Minnesota's Hidden Alphabet

Look at the natural world around you. Closer now. Can you find the letter “A” in a jumble of tree roots, the letter “I” in a cattail, the letter “O” in a bird’s nest? Joe Rossi traveled the state in search of all the letters of the alphabet, photographing scenes from Granite Falls to Chippewa National Forest, from Bemidji to St. Paul. Turn these pages and see what he found: does his imagination match yours?

The plants and animals and rocks in Joe’s pictures can teach us a lot about Minnesota’s natural world: Did you know that Native Americans used the fluffy down from cattails to pad diapers and moccasins (here, the letter "I")? Or that the American white pelican (letter “J”) teams up to herd fish—its dinner— into shallow water? Or that the name Minnesota means “sky-colored water” (letter “H”)?

Celebrated children’s book author David LaRochelle takes readers on an adventure inspired by this natural alphabet and encourages everyone to look more closely at what treasures the outdoors holds.

All across this wondrous state
Letters A through Z await! . . .
Zig and zagging, great and grand
Letters made by nature’s hand.

1.   Here's a fun idea for your trip around the country or your trip around the back yard: find objects or animals in nature that resemble letters of the alphabet, just like in Minnesota's Hidden Alphabet. You can find these anywhere! Take photos. Can you find enough letters to spell your name? Or maybe even the entire alphabet? Photographer Joe Rossi said the toughest letter he had to find was a "q." Can you find a "q" hidden somewhere in nature? Put your photos together to create your own hidden letter book.
2.   David LaRochelle uses many descriptive words in his text. If you read attentively, you'll find phrases such as "quietly these letters lie” and “velvet soft beyond belief.” He's including sound and touch. Whether you're enjoying a vacation or staycation, notice the things around you. Feel them, hear them, taste them (when that makes sense), smell them, and particularly notice their details. Which descriptive words would you use to help another person understand what your senses have noticed?
3.   You can play a game with the alphabet! Make a list of each alphabet letter so you can write a word next to it. As a group, decide on a category. If you're in the car, it might be "buildings" or "car words" or "scenery." If you're on a trip in your hometown, or in your backyard, you might choose "landmarks" or "things that grow." Take turns finding a word in your category that matches each letter of the alphabet.
4.   Fifty States: In each state you visit, make a list of people, places, and things that are unique to that location. What do you see or smell or hear that is different from where you live? Try writing a poem with your list of items. Remember, poems don't have to rhyme.
5.   From your own state, choose a city name and write the letters vertically on a piece of paper. Now find one thing in your state that begins with each letter of the city's name. When you can, take a photo of each of those things and arrange them (either on paper or digitally) alongside your list. What a great piece of art!
When your child has finished reading Minnesota's Hidden Alphabet, be sure to check off this book on your booklist, moving towards reading 12 books or 18 books this summer. You can register for a mile marker, our random drawing for several levels of giveaways.
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