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 #Kidlit Secrets of the Loon by Laura Purdie Salas

 

Tomorrow is the book birthday for a beautiful new picture book, Secrets of the Loon by Laura Purdie Salas and Charles Dayton.

Loons are water birds that live in lakes in northern North America in the summer where they dive under the water to catch fish and other small swimming animals. They are known for their haunting calls that travel great distances over the water, and for their striking black and white plumage.

According to a recent interview with Chuck Dayton, Secrets of the Loon started with his amazing photographs of loons taken over years spent at a family retreat on a lake in Minnesota. He wasn’t, however, used to writing for children, so his editor brought fellow Minnesotan and prolific children’s author/poet Laura Purdie Salas on board to write the main text. The combination is a winning one.

The main story, which is written in rhyme, follows the life of a loon named Moon from hatching to taking off for her first migration flight.

Below white pines at water’s edge,
in guarded nest of mud and sedge,
squeezed inside an olive egg,
bill meets wing meets folded leg.

Dayton’s original text is included as four pages of back matter, revealing some amazing facts. For example, loons have heavy bodies, which makes it hard for them to lift off out of the water. Once in flight, however, they can fly faster than a cheetah can run. Wow!

Secrets of the Loon is a must-read for budding ornithologists, especially ones who live near lakes where loons swim. It is also a treat for the rest of us who wish we could visit a cold lake and listen to these fascinating birds. Dive into the book today!

Related:

Age Range: 3 – 7 years
Publisher: Minnesota Historical Society Press (April 28, 2020)
ISBN-10: 1681341581
ISBN-13: 978-1681341583

Interested in more children’s books about birds? Check our growing list at Science Books for Kids.

 

 

Disclosure: This book was provided by the publisher. 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 The Story of Civil War Hero Robert Smalls

 

Great news for older readers:  author Janet Halfmann has developed her acclaimed 2008 picture book Seven Miles to Freedom: The Robert Smalls Story into a new chapter book in Lee & Low’s The Story of… series, The Story of Civil War Hero Robert Smalls, also illustrated by Duane Smith.

Born into slavery in South Carolina, young Robert Smalls worked his way up to the esteemed position as a wheelman on a wooden steamboat named the Planter that carried supplies for the Confederate army. With patience and ingenuity, he developed a plan to take his family on the boat and make a daring run for freedom. Would it work?

To help flesh out the book, Janet Halfmann delved deeply into the history of the Civil War to give background and context to the story. She added sidebars — like the one on slavery in the selection below –to extend the original story. She also  created a timeline, glossary, and recommended reading list.

Boat enthusiasts and budding engineers are going to love the sidebar about the steam-powered boat, the Planter. You can almost hear the hiss of the steam and the slap of the paddles hitting the water.

Janet Halfmann also includes a sidebar with the story of another daring escape to freedom, this time by a young woman who stowed away in wedding chest that was really no more than a large box. Readers will hold their breath waiting to see if she succeeds.

The daring escape in The Story of Civil War Hero Robert Smalls is what will likely initially attract readers, but it is the fascinating history that will keep them reading. This book is perfect for unit on the Civil War or for Black History Month. Delve into a copy today!

Related and Activity Suggestions:

1. Check out the Teacher’s Guide for Seven Miles to Freedom, which has many ideas that can be used with this book as well.

2. Consider a science/engineering project of building a paddle boat. We have some ideas about boat propulsion at Growing with Science to get you started.

3. See Writing and Illustrating blog for an interview with Janet Halfmann about the book.

Age Range: 8 – 11 years
Publisher: Lee & Low Books (February 25, 2020)
ISBN-10: 1643790161
ISBN-13: 978-1643790169

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