P IS FOR PTERODACTYL
by Raj Halder and Chris Carpenter
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
Several years ago, I lived in an apartment complex that had 26 buildings. As it happened, I lived in the 26th building, specifically in apartment Z-12. When I had to tell people my address, I would always explain I was in “Apartment Z, as in xylophone, 12.” It is indicative that people hear what they expect to hear that nobody ever questioned my orthography. When I heard that Raj Halder and Chris Carpenter was publishing an alphabet book entitled P Is for Pterodactyl, I knew that I had to acquire a copy of it.
Just like the apartment complex I lived in, P Is for Pterodactyl has 26 entries, one for each letter of the alphabet, so, despite proclaiming itself “The Worst Alphabet Book Ever,” it does, in fact, incorporate every letter of the alphabet, rather than elected to elide some of them. That being said, each letter does not use a word that starts with a different letter, but the same sound. Many of them, like xylophone for X or aisle for A, or wren for W, do fit that pattern, but there are other letters which clearly don’t have options and those required the authors to get creative. The book, therefore includes such gems as ”I is not for Eye” or “V is for Five.”
Not content to limit themselves to a single statement about the oddities of English spelling, the authors usually include a sentence at the bottom of each page that includes additional instances of silent letters and homophones. Turning each page becomes an exercise in anticipation of the cleverness the authors exhibit in their attempts to troll the language.
However, alphabet books are not solely about the letters and the words that define them. Haldar and Carpenter’s text is accompanied by illustrations by Maria Tina Beddia. Her whimsical and cartoonlike drawings use the sentences at the bottom of the page as inspiration. If viewed on their own with only the initial definitions, some of the pictures don’t seem to make sense, such as “H is for Heir” showing a shopkeeper and his son, dressed for hockey, but when the sentence below is read, it sheds light on Beddia’s intention with her illustration.
Finally, following Z, the authors offer up a glossary which defines many, but not all of the words used throughout the book. They don’t limit themselves to the primary words, but also discuss some of the words that are used in the descriptive sentences. Although the authors describe this section as “the Worst Glossary Ever,” it is quite useful, providing a pronunciation guide for many of the words as well as brief descriptions of them. The glossary also sports some of Beddia’s drawings, calling back to her work that appeared throughout the book.
Although the book is described as being for ages four and above, my wife is insistent that I not give it as a present to any children I know. It does, however, provide an excellent source of amusement for anyone who has a sense of the absurd and enjoyment of the foibles of the English language.
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