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Book Review: P Is for Pterodactyl

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A few weeks ago, I was hanging out at home, just laying around on the couch eating bonbons and scrolling through my phone (I’m a stay at home mom, so…lololololol), when I got a text from my husband. It was a picture of a book with an accompanying message saying, “You should review this.” “This” was a picture book with an illustration of a dinosaur wearing a turban and the words “THE WORST ALPHABET BOOK EVER” on the cover. Have you seen this one yet, friends? Because after a couple of delivery delays and weeks of waiting, I am finally able to present you with my review of P Is for Pterodactyl*
**All the letters that misbehave and make words nearly impossible to pronounce.

book review

I mostly decided to review this book because my husband suggested it and he is not in the habit of making recommendations for product reviews. But when I told him I was going to review it, he looked at me like I was nuts and told me he’d been kidding. Jerk. Anyway.

When I looked up the book on Amazon, it’s a legit kids’ book and not one of those parody books that looks like something you’d want to buy for a kid, but then turns out to be wildly inappropriate (link is NSFW!). The book’s description got me thinking that it would great for my second grader. She’s reading short chapter books on her own, and we’re reading a variety of more challenging books like the Little House and Harry Potter series together.

In school, she’s working on what her reading curriculum calls “trick” words, which are the words that make no sense when it comes phonics rules. Maybe her teacher has some tips to help her sound them out, but I most definitely do not. As far as I’m concerned, they’re the words I just pronounce for her when she gets stuck on them while reading, and that she has to memorize the spelling of. I figured, why not get a book of 26 of these words and laugh about how silly letters can be sometimes. Because honestly? This business of learning to read can sometimes suck the fun out of reading, so why not have some fun with it?

Well, let me tell you, this book will put all the fun back into reading—for the whole family, because you better believe that the husband got to sit down for family story time since this was all his idea. And oh my gosh, you guys! This book was hysterical. Each page has one letter and the standard alphabet format of “A is for…,” along with an illustration. At the bottom of the page, the authors use the word in a sentence to give it context. There were a couple pages that I was laughing so hard at the context sentences that I had to catch my breath before I could keep going. We all had the giggles the whole way through the book.

book review

The authors’ use of language is clever and their ability to demonstrate all the weird ways we use English (and some other languages) to create sounds is amazing. On the “E” page, for example, there are two different ways that “E” makes a long “U” sound, two ways it makes the long “E” sound, and one way it makes the long “I” sound. Whaaaaat? It’s a great teaching tool right there, but the sentence that went with the picture also offered two big vocabulary words and another smaller one that a young child may or may not know depending on how into barn animals they are.

Speaking of vocabulary words, if you have a child who’s learning to read (or knows how to read but is still developing that skill), chances are they sometimes get frustrated when they come across new words or move up to more challenging material. Well, my daughter got to watch me stumble over words I’ve never read out loud before and see me ask my husband for help in pronouncing them—because remember: this is a book full of words that can’t be sounded out!

Personally, as embarrassing as that was for me, I think it was great for her to see, because I read to her night after night with no struggles at all. She doesn’t see me when I’m reading adult books that are hard for me; when I keep a dictionary (read: the Merriam-Webster app on my phone) nearby, or I when have to look up foreign language words in a book I’m reading. Watching me stumble, she was even brave enough to try her hand at pronouncing “xylophone,” and genuinely laughed right along with us when we couldn’t keep it together when she came up with “exalaphone.” When we finished reading the book and asked what she thought (two thumbs up!), she even repeated it to make us laugh again. Family bonding at its best!

book review

What’s awesome is that P Is for Pterodactyl expects that there will be words in the book that readers don’t know: it includes a glossary in the back for the vocabulary words in introduces, as well a bunch of the words in the context sentences—including the foreign language ones. Oh, and those foreign language words are place names, or words that are used in English, so nothing super-intimidating.

The book is aimed at kids ages 4-8, or preschool to third grade. Personally, I think older kids who are reading are likely to have more fun with it because they understand why the words are funny. We took the time at the beginning to teach my daughter the rules (the letter at the beginning of the words in the book is usually silent, but not always), and made a game of letting her have the first try at pronouncing each letter’s word.

But the context sentences have a lot of alliteration and utilize poetic sound devices that make them fun to hear and read—plus the  pictures are entertaining—so younger kids will enjoy the book, too, making this book that will grow with your child. The bonus is that you’ll enjoy reading it, and you might even learn something. Courtesy of Amazon Prime, you might still be able to get this one in time for Hanukkah gifting, or if you’re on of the 24 days of books for Christmas types, this would make a great selection. Or be like me and buy it for no real reason at all. P Is for Pterodactyl really is a great addition to your home library.

PS: Thanks for suggesting it, honey, even if you were kidding

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Wednesday 5th of December 2018

The Bear Naked Ladies have a CD for kids called Snacktime that has an alphabet song that works on the same premise. They should be sold together.

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