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Minnesota's Hidden Alphabet

Minnesota's Hidden Alphabet

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Photography by Joe Rossi, Text by David LaRochelle

Minnesota Historical Society Press (November 1, 2010)

A turtle’s shell, an etched rock, a false morel, a trout lily—all inspire a closer look, a chance to see A to Z in Minnesota’s natural scenes.


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.

Author information

Award-winning photographer Joe Rossi worked at the St. Paul Pioneer Press for more than twenty years. He lives in northern Minnesota.

David LaRochelle is the award-winning author of The End and The Best Pet of All. He lives in White Bear Lake.

Teacher's guide

Download the Teacher's Guide to Minnesota's Hidden Alphabet (PDF)

  • 48 pages
  • 26 color photographs
  • 11 x 8.5 inches
  • ISBN: 9780873518086

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