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.