An ABC book with a Sydney focus


What does Sydney mean to you? If you’re a local, it might be the little things – shady Moreton Bay Figs, the whir of cicadas on hot summer nights, bursts of purple flowers on Jacaranda trees or the joy of a yum-cha lunch. If you’re a tourist, the Harbour Bridge, Luna Park and Taronga Zoo may stand out.


Antonia Pesenti and Hilary Bell have captured quintessential Sydney in their charming ABC book, Alphabetical Sydney.

Needless to say, most of the Sydney big guns get a mention – the Harbour Bridge, the ferries and Circular Quay, Taronga Zoo – the glaring omission is the Sydney Opera House. Sydneysiders might be pleased about this – is the Opera House always centre-stage, so to speak? But all is forgiven because for the letter O, Pesenti and Hill present the ubiquitous ocean pool (and it so happens to be my favourite spread in this book) –

“What do you dream of while dozing at school,
Diving deep down in a green Ocean pool?
Swim with the mermaids in pink bathing caps,
Wrinkled and leathery, doing their laps.”

I’m not sure what to enthuse over first – Bell’s detail rich four-line verses for each letter of the alphabet or Pesenti’s engaging illustrations, each a collage of photographs, drawings and black and white photocopied images –  both have captured so much in such a small space.

The joy of Alphabetical Sydney is mention of all the things that may seem commonplace or ordinary, but in actual fact are the real identifiers when we’re thinking about a place – bats at sunset; the Delicatessen with its olives, cabanossi and Pine-Lime Splices for sale; exhaust-pumping traffic in H’s Harbour Tunnel; garage sales and endless house renovations – these are the things that fire the senses and make memories sing.

Alphabetical Sydney is suitable for children aged two years and over however there’s enough there to have adults reminiscing. Find Alphabetical Sydney online at Readings.



Katrina Whelen

Katrina studied planning and design, did the hard yards working in a big office building and then traded it all in for a relaxing (!) life at home with four children. She now fills her time with writing, completing a degree in genetics and taxiing her children around Melbourne to their various sporting commitments (not necessarily in that order).

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