LOS ANGELES—One of the most popular books that familiarizes children with the sounds and names of the Armenian alphabet has been reissued with a companion CD that includes the complete reading of the text with chants, songs and game.
First published in 2001 by Los Angeles-based Dzil-u-Dzar Publications, the unique Armenian alphabet book for all ages (but mostly for three- to seven-year-olds), “Ayp Aboorin” (“Ayp For Soup”), had long become out of print. The 58-page book in full-color laminated paperback format features each alphabet entry with English and French translations of the Armenian word, while the Western and Eastern Armenian transliteration appears at the bottom of the page. Wittily illustrated by Anahid Sarkissian with animals, plants and everyday objects assuming human form to convey word meanings, the text features a rich variety of simple rhythmic language patterns and rhyming word combinations for each letter.
“Our beloved alphabet has been a gatekeeper of the inner strength of our nation,” says author and publisher Alidz Agbabian. “From the year when Mesrob Mashdots first created the iconic Armenian alphabet around 405 AD to the day in 1915, during the deportations of the Armenian Genocide, when a mother tried to teach her child the letters of her language by drawing them on the sand in the Syrian desert, the Armenian nation has been proud of its unique alphabet, has wholeheartedly identified with it, and which, for centuries, has become a guardian of our mother tongue.”
As Agbabian revisited the pages of “Ayp Aboorin” this year, they opened up a myriad of possible inspirational and improvisational materials for her.
“Mashdots, who first recognized the sounds that were structural to the Armenian language and then designed and named the letters for each sound, is also known to have been a composer,” notes Agbabian. Collaborating with young professional cellist April Guthry, Agbabian first set out to incorporate a simple segment of a religious song by Mashdots with voice and cello that would be appropriate for children to sing.
Next, the cello started to improvise on the sounds and moods of various sayings, layered above Anahid’s colorful illustrations, giving the recording a three-dimensional resonance.
“The recitations of the alphabet in various rhythmic patterns, which reflected the rhythms of a saying on the following page, gave the text vibrancy,” says Agbabian. The CD also includes a new recording of the Alphabet song, entitled “Ayppenaran,” based on an Armenian folk melody that was adapted by children’s music specialist Lucina Agbabian Hubbard. The song has been tested and performed with great enthusiasm by children of different ages and varying degrees of fluency in Armenian. A fun game that involves reciting the alphabet backwards while listening to the voice and cello also finds its place on the CD.
Encompassing words, visuals and music, “Ayp Aboorin” makes for a unique educational experience—while the book’s focus is on the Armenian text, non-Armenian-speaking families will be able to learn an Armenian word with each letter of the alphabet, recite it and sing the companion songs.
In addition to her appearances at schools, cultural festivals and seminars—both Armenian or non-Armenian, folk story teller-performer-vocalist, children’s book author and publisher Agbabian also offers whimsical and episodical segments relating to one aspect or tale of Armenian folklore on dziludzar.com, her personal website.
The new edition is available at Sardarabad and Abril bookstores in Glendale, Calif.