“L” Is For Formaldehyde Lamb: Damien Hirst Releases His First ABC Book

At last, a picture book for children about death! The original bad-boy artist spells it out for boys and girls.

Turning your innocent three-year-old into a tiny art snob has never been easier: Damien Hirst’s new educational children’s book, ABC, pairs 26 of his artworks with letters of the alphabet. Why not kill two birds with one stone and teach your kid about “The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living”–the original Young British Artist’s famous shark work–while explaining that the letter J is for Jaws?


I is for Insect shows thousands of bugs arranged in a kaleidoscope pattern, a detail of one of the artist’s Entomology Paintings. D is for Diamonds offers his glitzy diamond-encrusted skull. S is for Spin, referencing Hirst’s love of Spin Art. And impressionable young readers will forever associate the letter L with a celebrated, formaldehyde-preserved Lamb–far superior to the usual Lollipops crap their plebian classmates will learn.

The book also offers wee ones a first lesson in typography, as each letter represents an alphabetically led font: A is for Albertus, B is for Baskerville, and so on. Printed in child-friendly soya bean ink, ABC was released by Other Criteria, the London arts-based publishing company that Hirst co-founded.

Hirst often credits being raised Catholic and confronted with brutal images of flayed apostles and tortured saints with sparking his early interest in art. ABC’s scary shark pictures should go down easily with children in comparison. One of Hirst’s favorite quotes comes from Constantin Brancusi: “When we are no longer children, we are already dead.” In other words, “Fun for the whole family!” as ABC‘s jacket copy promises. It’s billed as a primer not just on the bad-boy artist’s career, but on the scientific, philosophical, and religious issues that lie at the heart of human existence–for the potty-training set. What’s next? A line of Jeff Koons teething rings?

Damien Hirst’s ABC, published Oct 1 in the U.K., will be released in the U.S. Oct 15 for $15, available here.

About the author

Carey Dunne is a Brooklyn-based writer covering art and design. Follow her on Twitter.