How Aussie legends are teaching kids their ABCs

A sample of the Aussie Legends alphabet.
A sample of the Aussie Legends alphabet.  Photo: Beck Fein

The are a bright, quirky, inclusive and meaningful tribute to some of our most beloved Australians - and they are also teaching kids their ABCs.

When Beck Feiner's son, Levi, turned four and began learning his letters, the Sydney mum (who co-created the very funny mum milestones cards) went in search of an alphabet poster to hang on his wall. Discovering that the available offerings were all a bit "boring and generic" (think "A is for Apple", "B is for Banana"), the art director and illustrator set herself a challenge.

"I thought, you know what I'll start making an alphabet for him," Ms Feiner told Essential Kids. Instead of fruit, however, the mother-of-two took a different approach, creating an alphabet of Aussie legends.

Beck Feiner with her children Levi and Esme.
Beck Feiner with her children Levi and Esme. 

Along with "A" for Adam Goodes, there's "B" for Bob Hawke, "C" for Cathy Freeman, "O" for Olivia Newton John, "U" for Jørn Utzon (the "honorary" Aussie who gave us the Opera House), "V" for Victor Chang, and "Y" for Yothu Yindi.

Ms Feiner released a letter a day on her Instagram account, where she quickly amassed a band of dedicated followers. "Instagram makes you a bit accountable," she laughs of the project.

Also mum to 18-month-old Esme, Ms Feiner worked during her baby's nap time and in front of Netflix of an evening to release a new letter each night, after her kids went to bed.

"It was my baby," she says.

While some of the letters came easily, "like Fred Hollows and Molly Meldrum," others, like Julia Gillard, took a little more work. "I wanted it to be more than a head on a letter," Ms Feiner explained of her clever designs.

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The final alphabet is a rich, diverse tapestry of men and women from politics, history, music, art, literature, science and sport. Everyday Aussies make it in, too - under the letter "Z".

"Z is for Shazza, Wazza, Kezza, Bazza," Ms Feiner says, noting that she wanted to finish the series with a "bang". "It's these everyday legends that make Australia truly awesome."

The mum's final choice of "legends" was not without contention, however. "I had people saying, 'What about this person or what about that person," she says.

And Don Bradman, Ms Feiner notes, was an omission some people were vocal about. "I tried to imagine Australia without that person," Ms Feiner says of choosing her legends. "If it felt disappointing to leave that person out, then they're an Aussie Legend."

Along with helping kids learn their letters, Ms Feiner also hopes the posters will open up conversations in Australian households - and classrooms - about the various people depicted, their stories and their achievements.

"It would be cool if they were in every classroom and children's room in Australia," Ms Feiner says. Thus far, the posters have proven popular with schools, adults, and with the expat community, too. "It's made a few people homesick," she said. "It's nice for people who are raising kids in other countries."

The talented mum has also won herself some high profile fans: Dame Edna Everage shared her letter to her Instagram account:

And Lee Lin Chin made her letter her Twitter profile picture. "I can retire now," Ms Feiner laughs.

Does she have a favourite letter, herself? Ms Feiner says it's "like choosing a favourite child", but she does have one or two ... or five. "Kath and Kim, Lee Lee Chin, Fred Hollows, Edie Mabo, Victor Chang ... I could go on," she laughs.

As for little Levi, who inspired the posters, Ms Feiner says Ned Kelly is an "obvious" favourite (because of his gun), but that he also likes Steve Irwin. "He doesn't know who [Irwin] is, but it starts a conversation. Having [the legends] around means it's more than an alphabet - it's an opportunity to talk."

The mum-of-two hopes to turn the alphabet into a book - and even has calico bags in the works.

"The sky's the limit," she says.

Posters are available at Beck Feiner Creations for $39.95.

A portion of the profits for each poster will go to the Fred Hollows Foundation.