When Borka was published A.S. Neill wrote a note of congratulations to the young Burningham. There is clear affection and respect but also a sense that something is understood between them. ‘The mushy sentimentality that attracts 99% of folks is not for us.’ (Neill was published too). When Burningham’s illustrated ABC followed in 1964 it was dedicated to Neill and he wrote inside ‘I managed to pick up the alphabet upon leaving Summerhill.’ Neill was delighted
It is typical of the high quality work produced during that period. Brian Alderton – writing in John Burningham’s autobiography says: ‘Like Borka, which preceded it, ABC (1964) gained its effect simply as a suite of individual paintings. Alphabet books not linked to traditional formula like ‘A was an Archer’ or ‘A Apple Pie’ offer their compilers complete freedom of choice as to content and John can remember no guiding principle in his selection of subjects that carried him from A to Z. Parallels may crop up within it’s sequence: segments of an apple and of orange, a king and a queen, whose reign would surely have been riven with tensions, but what a child reader chiefly enjoys is a succession of gorgeous and often gorgeously comic , independent images’.