Author: Lisa Frenkel Riddiough

Illustrations: Åsa Gilland

Publisher & Year: Running Press Kids (Hachette Book Group) 2022

Intended Age: Ages 4-10

Topic/Themes: Alphabet Book, Emotions & Feelings, Alliteration

Opening Lines: “Appreciate Art”

Synopsis: LETTERS TO LIVE BY: AN ALPHABET BOOK WITH INTENTION alliteratively recommends to the reader an intention (in two thoughtful words) they could set (or an action they could take) to improve the world. 


                                ©Lisa Frenkel Riddiough and Åsa Gilland

From Amazon:

“A social-emotional concept picture book that teaches readers the power of setting intentions and embracing mindfulness in our everyday.

Appreciate art, become brave, and choose compassion. Pairing big ideas like generosity, respect, and joy with the letters of the alphabet, Letters to Live By is a beautiful picture book that encourages children to make the most of each day and leave their mark on the world.

What I like about this book: This book is a gem that is meant to be savored and shared! The text reads beautifully and pairs perfectly with Åsa Gilland’s charming illustrations, which includes delightful oversized patterned letters.

LETTERS TO LIVE BY: AN ALPHABET BOOK WITH INTENTION is the perfect read aloud for the beginning of the school year when new communities are being formed but may also be perfect read right now as playground conflicts can increase with the warmer weather! Caregivers, Teachers, Librarians, School Psychologists can read this book aloud and then pull it off the bookshelf as needed as a way to encourage discussion, conflict resolution, and ways, as the book says, “to make our world a better, happier place.” 


Writing: Use this book as a mentor text, write your classroom version of this book. A sample title might be: Letters to Live By: An Alphabet Book with Our Class Intentions.

Students can work individually or in pairs to create their own page featuring a letter of the alphabet with alliterative text and illustrations.

Reading: Before reading, have students look at the title and cover illustration and predict what the story will be about. Discuss what it means “to live by” something and what “intention” means.

After reading, students can brainstorm actions that go with each intention:

(From the publisher)

Book Celebration: Invite families to listen to the book and view the student-created pages.

Art: Using the illustrations as a mentor text, have students create over-sized patterned letters. Old wallpaper sample books may provide some interesting designs with an alphabet shape being traced and cut out. Place the patterned letter on the illustration for an alliterative phrase.

Author Website:

Illustrator Website:

This review is part of PPBF (Perfect Picture Book Friday) where bloggers share great picture books. Organized and curated by author Susanna Leonard Hill, she keeps an ever-growing list of Perfect Picture Books. #PPBF

Thanks for stopping by! Have you read this book? Let me know in the comments.

Reflections on this Book:

What does it mean to live with intention? How best can we explain that to students? I thought a WordQuest might be the perfect way to deepen student understanding of a word!

Let’s start by exploring the word “intention”!

Investigating the word, “intention” and discovering that the orthographic denotation is “stretch” helps me more deeply understand what it means to live with intention. You are hoping to live by stretching yourself in the direction of your highest ideals. The idea of stretching also implies reaching out of your comfort zone towards a higher place.

While investigating “intention,” I initially assumed that “tentacles” and “content” were in the same morphological family; that, because they share the same spelling of the base, these words were related.

This is a wonderful example of why etymology matters. A key understanding of orthographic instruction is “the base holds the meaning.” 

 Another key understanding is that just because the base of two words are spelled the same doesn’t mean that they hold the same meaning. 

In fact, tentacles (from the Latin tentare “feel, try”) and content (from the Latin tenere “hold”)  are not in the same etymological or morphological family as intention (from the Latin tenere “stretch”); these words are homographic bases that happens to be spelled the same but have different meaninsg and derivations. Understanding this also helped me understand more deeply the meaning of “intention.” Intention is not about “feeling or trying” or “holding”, it is about “stretching” and reaching towards our best self.
 is the source of all etymological information.

What LETTERS will you LIVE BY? Thanks for reading this post! 

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5 Responses

  1. This is a terrific twist for an ABC book, something that editors like to see. The illustrations are so fun, and I really like that color palette. I also find that your accompanying activities are exceptionally well thought through. I can tell you’re a professional educator! Do you create teacher’s guides for authors?

    1. Jilane, In case my email to you didn’t go through, I am also replying here! Thank you so much for your kind words about my review as I so admire your thoughtful and beautifully written reviews. I am a professional educator! After 25 years as a reading specialist, I am now consulting and writing. One of my favorite things to do is organize literacy events like Family Reading Nights and Writing Contests. I don’t create teacher’s guides for authors yet but it sounds like something I would love to do! Thanks for your kind response! Mona

  2. great review – and what a wonderful premise for an alphabet book. I love the worksheet page the publisher provides… gives food for thought. Thank you for sharing this, otherwise I’d have missed it.

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