Alphamaniacs Rule the Word

Today we have a tribute to word players and geniuses, Alphamaniacs: Builders of 26 Wonders of the Word by Paul Fleischman and illustrated by Melissa Sweet.

Writers and poets often play with words in creative ways, but Paul Fleischman has gathered a collection of examples of people who have pushed the language envelope into other realms.

Examples:

1. Creative Translations from Sight to Sound

Young scholars have spent long hours translating Latin text into English, so imagine their delight to discover some Latin words sound enough like English words to write prose that means one thing in Latin and a totally different thing in English when read aloud. This is called Dog Latin (link to Wikipedia page).

2. Concrete Poetry Makes Images

Mary Ellen Solt and other poets have used letters  and words to make visual art. Search for examples of Mary Ellen Solt’s concrete poetry, like a poem about forsythia shaped like a forsythia bush or a zinna.

Intrigued at the possibilities? The collection includes:

  • The developer of stylometry or the use of computers to analyze writing style to establish authorship for anonymous works
  • A man who wrote an entire novel without using a single letter e
  • An obsessive designer of fonts
  • The man who created a new language called Esperanto

Plus many more.

As an added benefit , the illustrations are by the innovative Melissa Sweet. The collage mixture of art and word is its own contribution.

Fleischman has assembled an astonishing set of examples. The books is easily browsable and introduces fascinating subject matter. The only shortcoming is that because of the sheer number of different people he covers, he can’t delve deeply into any one topic. Each one receives only a light, breezy mention. Time and time again I wished the descriptions gave more details. Let’s face it, any one of these could be a topic for an extended essay or even a book on its own. It does help he provides references for “Further Entertainment” in the back matter. I wish a glossary had been included as well.

Overall, Alphamaniacs is the perfect choice for mature middle graders to young adults who have a fascination with words and languages. Who knows what it might inspire from future word players.

Related activities:

1. Take some poetic license.

My family has been creating poems and riddles based on car license plates for years, but it turns out we weren’t the first. Daniel Nussbaum has translated well-known stories using records of vanity plates in his book PL8SPK.

 

If you spend way too much time in the car, you probably see vanity license plates every day. Here’s a challenge: Use license plates to inspire haiku-like poems. You can add words if you choose.

For example, these actual vanity plates:

  • LEOPARD
  • FLAWLESS
  • SILENCE

can be rearranged to become the poem

Flawless leopard
Stalks its prey
Silence

In a similar theme, the license plates

  • X3X
  • ANCHOVY
  • FORTUNA

with a little “poetic license” become:

Three anchovies
Four tuna
X anchovies
X tuna

Think about it.

One day I saw these two in the same parking lot:

  • 1Run100
  • GOOD4EWE

I run 100 K
Good for you

That is a a nicer pair than:

Be a duck…
Kabob

UBETCYA

 

To accompany:  Alphamaniacs: Builders of 26 Wonders of the Word
Age Range: 12 – 16 years
Publisher: Candlewick Studio (April 14, 2020)
ISBN-10: 076369066X
ISBN-13: 978-0763690663

Disclosure: The book was provided by my good friend Cassie. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

Looking for more children’s nonfiction books? Try the Nonfiction Monday blog.

#Nonfiction Monday Dr. Maggie’s Grand Tour of the Solar System

 

Today we are featuring the fun new upper-elementary book, Dr. Maggie’s Grand Tour
 of the Solar System by Dr. Maggie Aderin-Pocock 
and illustrated by Chelen Écija.

What to Expect from the Tour

Space scientist Dr. Maggie guides the reader around our solar system, supported by incredible visual elements.

First up we learn what a solar system is. From there we take off, discovering how astronauts  get into space. As we look back at Earth, we encounter some weird human-made space junk that orbits the Earth, including a spatula and a camera. Cool!

What do we encounter next? Well, the moon of course. Then off to the sun for an in-depth look at our nearest star that doesn’t require eye protection.  Moving away from the sun, we visit each of the planets (and their moons) in order, plus travel through the asteroid belt. Does the tour stop at planet Neptune? No, it continues on through the Kuiper Belt to the Oort Cloud and beyond.

Curious for more?

Check out the Kane Miller Website for a peek inside the book or take a look at this wordless trailer:

What’s best about this book is that readers can read in order for a clear, logical progression or they can browse sections for specific topics of interest. The sidebars also break the text into delicious readable chunks.

Dr. Maggie’s Grand Tour
 of the Solar System will enthrall budding astronomers and astronauts alike. Pick up a copy for the ride of your life.

Suggested Activities:

Check out our sister blog, Growing with Science, for activity suggestions inspired by the book.

Visit Science Books for Kids for a growing list of children’s books about the solar system.

Ages: 8+
ISBN:  978-1-68464-034-8

Disclosure: The book was provided by the publisher for review purposes.

Looking for more children’s nonfiction books? Try the Nonfiction Monday blog.

#Nonfiction Monday The Girl Who Drew Butterflies

Let’s explore some of the fantastic nonfiction children’s books that have been nominated for 2018 Cybils awards.

I’ve been meaning to review the middle grade biography The Girl Who Drew Butterflies: How Maria Merian’s Art Changed Science by Joyce Sidman for a few months now. Why haven’t I? Perhaps I’ve wanted to keep this gorgeous book all to myself.

Maria Sibylla Merian was a woman far ahead of her time. She was an artist, a scientist, and a bold adventurer who traveled to Surinam during the 1600s all wrapped up in one. So right off the bat, this is the biography of an interesting person.

When I say this book is gorgeous, I’m not kidding. Starting with the gold lettering and border on the cover, to the menagerie of Merian’s butterfly and caterpillar illustrations in the endpapers, to Joyce Sidman’s own color photographs of insect life stages, The Girl Who Drew is a visual feast.

Even the chapter titles are creative. Each is a stage during insect metamorphosis that parallels Maria’s own development:  Egg, Hatching, First Instar, etc. It also reflects her intense interest in how animals develop from stage to stage. How clever is that?

Don’t underestimate the historical information, either. Readers learn about what life was like during the 1600s. Throw in old maps and oodles of back matter and you have a book that has lasting power.

The Girl Who Drew Butterflies is a treat for budding artists and scientists alike. Be inspired by a copy today.

Public domain artwork by Maria Sibylla Merian

Age Range: 10 – 12 years
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers (February 20, 2018)
ISBN-10: 0544717139
ISBN-13: 978-0544717138

Disclosure: The book was provided by the publisher for review purposes. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

nonfictionmonday

Looking for more children’s nonfiction books? Try the Nonfiction Monday blog.

#Cybils: 2015 Elementary and Middle Grade Nonfiction Finalists Announced

To start the New Year out with a bang, it is time to announce the 2015 Cybils Awards finalists.

Cybils-Logo-2015-Web-SmIf you have been following this blog, you will know that this year I have been serving as a round I judge in the Elementary and Middle Grade Nonfiction category. After reading over 100 children’s books, we have narrowed the list to seven finalists. The round II judges will pick the winner from this list. Winners are announced in the second week of February.

Elementary and Middle Grade Nonfiction Finalists:
(Cover images are affiliate links to Amazon)

Guts and Glory: The Vikings by Ben Thompson (reviewed at Wrapped in Foil)

Fatal Fever: Tracking Down Typhoid Mary by Gail Jarrow is middle grade nonfiction that reads like a thriller. It is fast paced and informative.

Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah by Laurie Ann Thompson and illustrated by Sean Qualls, tells the story of a young man who cycled 400 miles across Ghana in 2001. This in itself is a feat, but he did it with only one leg! (reviewed at Wrapped in Foil)

I, Fly: The Buzz About Flies and How Awesome They Are by Bridget Heos and illustrated by Jennifer Plecas (reviewed at Growing with Science)

One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia by Miranda Paul and illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon reveals an innovative solution to a common environmental problem.

Kid Presidents: True Tales of Childhood from America’s Presidents by David Stabler and illustrated by Doogie Horner shows that kids who grow up to be famous have some of the same problems as regular kids.

Untamed: The Wild Life of Jane Goodall by Anita Silvey is a timely biography of a pioneering primatologist.

Congratulations to all the finalists!