Friday, May 26, 2017

PPBF: Alpha Bravo Charlie

Today's Perfect Picture Book Friday pick

Alpha Bravo Charlie,
The Complete Book of Nautical Codes, by Sara Gillingham
Alpha Bravo Charlie

Written and illustrated by Sara Gillingham

Phaidon Press, 2016
Ages 6-10, 120 pp

Language, Nautical, Nonfiction

Ship ahoy!
Imagine you are on a boat out at sea, a long time ago, with no phone or electronic way to talk to anyone else. Sailing in the big, wide ocean is pretty dangerous! There are pirate ships that could rob you, and maybe even enemy ships from countries you are at war with. So when you see another ship off in the distance, what do you do?

Alpha Bravo Charlie is truly a "complete book of nautical codes." The introduction explains the need for and definition of signal flags, the phonetic alphabet flags, Morse code, and semaphore. Then, for each letter of the alphabet, the book includes a full page flag, explanations of each of the other languages, plus a different kind of boat on every page giving examples of the code in use. Each boat is also explained in detail adding a bonus of 26 boats to the reader's repertoire. The back matter includes a glossary, more about nautical history, more about codes, decorating boats, links, and resources for further study. Whew!

What I Love:
This brightly colored, graphic book is sturdy and perfect for enquiring minds and eager little hands. The format is what makes it stand out, as well as the information packed between the covers. Even the endpapers are in Morse code (though I found myself wishing there was a secret message embedded there!) I loved learning the meanings of the flags and can see this being referred to often by best buddies: sending signals from the tree tops or covertly in the classroom. The creator cleverly included various ships to help tell her story. For example, the Alpha flag also means "diver down." The artist drew a boat with diving platform, including descriptive text, to cement the details in our minds. I was astounded she could come up with twenty-six different kinds of boats, each linking to the meaning of the International Code of Signals flags. I did find myself wishing I could detach the flags and use them. I can imagine my kid-self doing just that.


Secret codes in Math class
from What Do We Do All Day
1. I found an Australian site which has pictures and descriptions
of the International Code of Signal Flags.

2. has articles on the history of Morse code and
lessons on the subject.

3. I found a huge, detailed list of various ships on the Ultimate Online Guide. I wonder if it more or less reliable than Wikipedia.

4. Kids Activities Blog and each have a multitude of codes you can teach your kids.

5. Creative Interviews posted an interview with Sara Gillingham on her duties as design director.

6. Check out these related reviews from my previous posts and don't forget to support your local library.

Jackrabbit McCabe & the Electric Telegraph

Mr. Wuffles!

Reviewed by Leslie
Reviewed by Vivian

Have you reviewed a Perfect Picture Book along this theme? Please leave the link in the comments below. Thanks!

Check out all the recommended titles for Perfect Picture Book Friday
for Friday, May 5, 2017 available on Susanna Leonard Hill's blog.


  1. Wonderful review of such an interesting picture book. I LOVED The Friend Ship & I think kids will love learning about codes in Alpha Delta Charlie. Have a great weekend!

    1. Thanks. I loved both the concept and execution of this book.

  2. This definitely looks like a book that the great art/design publisher, Phaidon, would bring into the world. This sounds like something that my son would be interested in. Thanks for the rec!

    1. My boys would have been all over this one. We had every code book published at the time. Hope they like it. Thanks.

  3. I would have liked this as a kid! I wanted to sail so bad back then. I've been land-locked for eons so I am left to close my eyes and dream!

    1. I learned to sail in my twenties, but as I'm not a fabulous swimmer, I was always a bit timid on the water. Thanks.

  4. Kids who love to sail or boats in general will love this book. I live nonfiction books. I hope they included Morse code. That is one I'd love to understand. Great post.

    1. Yes. You'll find Morse code inside and all over the end papers. Thank-you for reading.

  5. What a fun book. I added it to my "to read" list. Thanks.

    1. LOL If your list is as long as mine, we're going to need an additional day of the week. Thanks for your comments.

  6. Oh, I like this book. It certainly will engage kids who like codes and signals. What an interesting review! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks. I am sure we'd have been hanging signal flags from the tree house if we'd had this a few years ago.


Thank-you for taking time to share your thoughts!