scrounge: /skrounj/ informal verb: to actively seek [books] from any available source
I thought P Is for Pterodactyl: The Worst Alphabet Book Ever looked like an amusing book when I first saw it, so I was glad I got it for Christmas last month. It'll make a great conversation piece, and as a proofreader I'm all too familiar with the difficulty that certain English words give us (myself included) -- we have plenty of exceptions to our language rules!
I was indeed amused while reading this, and found it a fun way to collect a good percentage of silent consonants in one place. Probably this wouldn't appeal to children until they were old enough to be reading some of these more difficult English words, but it could also be useful for someone who's learning English as an adult.
In some ways this alphabet book isn't consistent, because not every letter is used as a silent first letter the way P is (as in "Ptolemy the psychic pterodactyl struggles with psoriasis"), but that's understandable. For many letters, the text instead focuses on silent letters in other parts of words (such as the "n" in "hymn" and "autumn" or the "z" in "rendezvous"). Sometimes the book simply points out what a letter is not for, as in "F is not for photo, phlegm, phooey, or phone." Occasionally it "cheats" a little and focuses on words that are more clearly from other languages (J is for Jai Alai, a sport of Basque origin).
But despite the fact that I think it "reaches" for a few of these, the premise is funny and it does a good job collecting so many weird words with silent letters. At the end is a glossary, which is helpful because I've always wondered how "gnocchi" was pronounced, plus it includes an explanation for why "ptero" got the "p" in the first place.
Scrounged From: A Christmas present from my brother
Authors: Raj Haldar and Chris Carpenter
Illustrator: Maria Beddia
Content Advisory: None
We've encountered many, many alphabet books so far -- some better than others -- but most do a great job introducing the alphabet using familiar (or strange) objects or ideas. Here are some of the most memorable ones we've read:
This is probably my favorite Lois Ehlert book. I love food, and being a "list person" anyway, found Eating the Alphabet to be a very engaging, colorful way to teach children about various fruits and vegetables that start with every letter of the alphabet. While it doesn't purport to teach colors as well, it could certainly function as a color reminder/primer as well. Visually appealing, and makes you hungry!
I don't know how popular artist Dahlov Ipcar is outside of Maine, but I know that I really love her artwork style, especially when animals are involved, so we've really enjoyed this colorful board book of animals for every letter of the alphabet, complete with rhyming text. The Wild Animal Alphabet includes animals in the wild, but also a few doing anthropomorphized things like sewing or banging on drums.
It's a popular one, but Dr. Seuss's ABC is another favorite due to the silly rhymes and odd characters and words that it introduces (like a fiffer-feffer-feff or a zizzer-zazzer-zuzz!). It also takes its time and periodically reviews the alphabet up to the current point (at least in the hardcover version -- the board book is fairly abridged).
Animalia is not only my favorite alphabet book, but it's one of my favorite picture books, period. Not only does each letter have a clever sentence about an animal doing something alliterative with that letter, but the illustrations include many hidden (and some more obvious) items that also begin with that letter. Even after many readings I'm sure I haven't found them all! Full review here.
This is one of the weirder alphabet books I've come across, but it's certainly unique. Once Upon an Alphabet is a quirky book with a succinct "story" about each letter of the alphabet, which includes at least a few other things that begin with that letter. Some of the stories are connected and get referenced later on, but others are stranger and some even a bit dark. It won't be everyone's cup of tea, and is probably geared more toward children who are quite old enough to already know their alphabets, but it's still fun and funny at times.
Animalia, which is written and illustrated by Grame Base, is one of the most wonderful picture book I have ever "read." The pictures are filled with amazing and beautiful details that will keep everyone -- even the adults -- coming back again and again.
For each letter of the alphabet there is a picture filled with images of objects that begin with that letter. A clever alliterative caption describes each picture (for example: Great Green Gorillas Growing Grapes in a Gorgeous Glass Greenhouse).
Not all of the alliterative objects are obvious though. Sometimes Base hides them cleverly, or makes them difficult to see, such as in the form of shadows behind the Ostrich in "O," or reflections on the butterflies' wings in "B."
Can you find them all? Is it possible to know for sure? The level of complexity and insight involved in this book is one thing that keeps drawing readers in, even thirty years after its original publication.
Scrounged From: My husband's book stash
Author/Illustrator: Graeme Base
Content Advisory: None