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.

Children’s Books About African-American Ballerinas: Michaela DePrince

This week the spotlight is on children’s books featuring African-American ballerinas.

African-American-Ballerina-Books

Why choose books about African-American ballerinas? First of all, because there are a lot of great reasons to read diversely.

10-reasons-to-read-diverselySecondly, because a lot of good things can come from studying ballet, but not everyone is exposed to it at a young age. Personally, I discovered ballet when I went to college, when it was way too late to dream of becoming a dancer. Regardless, taking ballet classes reduced the stress of attending college, made me stronger, more coordinated, more self confident, and gave me a life-long appreciation for ballet. Studying ballet takes also takes a great deal of commitment and hard work, which are skills that apply to many avenues in life.

Finally, the featured books are likely to inspire children to explore their passions fully, no matter what those passions are.

To start the week, we have two books about the amazing true story of Michaela DePrince.

Young readers will enjoy Ballerina Dreams: From Orphan to Dancer (Step Into Reading, Step 4) by Michaela and Elaine DePrince and illustrated by Frank Morrison.

Left an orphan in war-torn Sierra Leone, Michaela suffered bullying because she had a skin condition. While still at the orphanage, however, Michaela found a photograph of a ballerina in a magazine and it made such an impression on her that she carried it with her wherever she went. After Michaela and her friend Mia were adopted by Elaine DePrince and moved to America, her new mother recognized Michaela’s interest in ballet and arranged for her to start dance lessons. Now Michaela dances with the Dutch National Ballet.

The book is illustrated with a mix of period photographs and Frank Morrison’s warm, creative paintings.

Ballerina Dreams is a marvelous introduction to biographies for young readers. It is a must read for aspiring dancers, as well.

Age Range: 7 – 9 years
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers (October 14, 2014)
ISBN-10: 0385755155
ISBN-13: 978-0385755153

Taking Flight: From War Orphan to Star Ballerinaby Michaela DePrince and Elaine Deprince

In this memoir written for an older audience, Michaela tells her amazing, inspiring story in deeper detail.

This video book trailer says it all:

Taking Flight deserves a wide audience. Who wouldn’t be moved by this wondrous story?

Age Range: 12 and up
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (October 14, 2014)
ISBN-10: 0385755112
ISBN-13: 978-0385755115

Disclosure: Both of these books were from the library. 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.

leaf-borderVisit our other posts about Children’s Books Celebrating African-American Ballerinas:

Tuesday:  Misty Copeland

Wednesday:  Debbie Allen

Thursday:  Janet Collins

Friday:  Beautiful (African-American) Ballerina

nonfictionmonday

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

Awesome Nonfiction: The 2015 Charlotte Huck and Orbis Pictus Awards

Did you see which book won the 2015 Orbis Pictis this year?

What is Orbis Pictus? Each year the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) recognize an outstanding children’s nonfiction book.

This year the winner is:

The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming, which also was a finalist for this year’s YALSA awards, as well as a 2015 Sibert Honor book. It is definitely a book to look for if you haven’t seen it yet.

The awards committees picked some excellent honors and recommended books, as well.

Honors:

The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus 
by Jen Bryant and illustrated by Melissa Sweet is a Charlotte Huck honor book. It was also the 2015 Sibert medal winner.

 

To give you a feel for The Right Word, here’s the book trailer:

  • Publisher: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers (September 15, 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 0802853854
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802853851

Star Stuff: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos by Stephanie Roth Sisson is an absolutely extraordinary picture book.

  • Age Range: 4 – 8 years
  • Publisher: Roaring Brook Press (October 14, 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 1596439602
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596439603

Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation 
by Duncan Tonatiuh, is also a 2015 Pura Belpré Illustrator Honor Book and a 2015 Robert F. Sibert Honor Book. It is a great choice for both Black History Month and Women’s History Month.

  • Age Range: 6 – 9 years
  • Publisher: Harry N. Abrams (May 6, 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 1419710540
  • ISBN-13: 978-1419710544

Recommended:

We previously reviewed this recommended title from the Scientists in the Field series: Chasing Cheetahs: The Race to Save Africa’s Fastest Cat (Scientists in the Field Series), by Sy Montgomery and Nic Bishop, which follows Dr. Lauren Marker and her colleagues and students as they work with cheetahs in Namibia.

Neighborhood Sharks: Hunting with the Great Whites of California’s Farallon Islands by Katherine Roy also received a 2015 Sibert Honor recognition.

  • Age Range: 7 – 11 years
  • Publisher: David Macaulay Studio (September 30, 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 1596438746
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596438743

The Scraps Book: Notes from a Colorful Life 
by Lois Ehlert

  • Age Range: 5 – 10 years
  • Publisher: Beach Lane Books (March 4, 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 1442435712
  • ISBN-13: 978-1442435711

The Orbis Pictus website has more recommended books.

Have you read any of these titles yet?

If you are interested in some of the background about how these books came about and have a few minutes, check out some of the honored authors and illustrators talking about their books.

 

Disclosures: 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.

 

Hearing From the 2015 YALSA Nonfiction for Young Adults Award Finalists

Last week I was fortunate to have a bit of space in my schedule, which was just enough time to sign up for the School Library Journal Webcast:  “A Conversation with the 2015 YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Finalists.”  Each of the finalists was represented, four by the authors and one by the editor who worked closely on the book. It was golden!

Some tidbits from the webcast:

  • Two of five finalist authors are young adults, and Maya Van Wagenen is only 16.
  • Articulate Maya Van Wagenen is already working on her next book, a novel.
  • Witty Shane Burclaw’s memoir came from his blog of the same name.
  • Candace Fleming didn’t want sidebars in her book because she thinks they distract the reader. Her editor agreed.
  • Power author Steve Sheinkin draws cartoons. Since no one will buy them, he puts them on his blog.
  • Emily Arnold McCully’s roots are in illustration. Her next book features a hippopotamus.

The awards will be announced on Monday, February 2, 2015.

In case you were wondering, the YALSA Nonfiction finalists for 2015 are:

Laughing at My Nightmare
by Shane Burcaw

The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia
by Candace Fleming

Ida M. Tarbell: The Woman Who Challenged Big Business–and Won!
by Emily Arnold McCully

The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights
by Steve Sheinkin

Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek
by Maya Van Wagenen

What an eye-catching cover!

Have you read any of these titles yet? Which do you think will win?

 

Disclosures: 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.