|Alphamaniacs : builders of 26 wonders of the word|
Author: Fleischman, Paul
Twenty-six extraordinary individuals for whom love of language is an adventurous endeavor, inspiring them to invent unique wordplay.
Kirkus Reviews (+) (02/15/20)
School Library Journal (04/01/20)
Full Text Reviews:
Booklist - 03/01/2020 In this collection of brain-tickling tales, words are presented as more than mere devices for relaying information. To Fleischman, they are also malleable objects of visual and audial wonder, which he illustrates by introducing 26 wordsmiths, poets, artists, and lovers of language who made their mark on history through remarkable creative endeavors. Included are Jean-Dominique Bauby, who composed sentences by blinking a single eyelid; Marc Okrand, inventor of the Klingon language; and Mary Ellen Solt, creator of spectacular concrete poetry—“poems that also look like their subject.” The stories—covering mostly white men from the twentieth century—are told in a playful, conversational style, supplemented by Sweet’s gorgeous mixed-media illustrations that, along with an attractive layout and high-quality paper, result in a beautiful object of a book. Unfortunately, anecdotes often rely on historical and literary context that the target audience may be missing. As Fleischman attempts to connect with younger generations—referencing YouTube but also iPods—he misses the opportunity to highlight perhaps the biggest influencers of linguistic evolution: teenagers. Still, an alluring gift for dedicated word nerds. - Copyright 2020 Booklist.
School Library Journal - 04/01/2020 Gr 7 Up—Fleischman describes the accomplishments of 26 (one for every letter of the alphabet) inventors of systems having to do with language, words, etymology, linguistics, dialects, books, and as the author would put it, verbal wonders. The collective biography includes Daniel Nussbaum, an author who developed a language based on California vanity license plates; Jean-Dominique Bauby, a French journalist who suffered a major stroke and taught himself to write using only an eyelash; Jessie Little Doe Baird, a Native American linguist who worked to revive her Wampanoag language; Marc Okrand, the inventor of Klingon language (of Star Trek fame); Frederic Cassidy, editor in chief of the Dictionary of American Regional English; and Doris Cross, a painter who repurposes dictionaries with pictures linking words on opposite sides of the pages. While they hail from different backgrounds, these writers and word lovers find joy in experimenting with language. There are dreamers like Robert McCormick (who tried to standardize English spelling) and Ludwik Zamenhof (whose quest for a universal language resulted in Esperanto). Sweet's illustrations gracefully complement the text and demonstrate the prevalence of images in our modern world. Back matter offers websites and books that expand on the very short entries for each subject. VERDICT In an age driven by images, this book is an anomaly. Its audience is language lovers. Even though Fleischman's gushing writing style gets in the way of his own love for the subject, the book has unusual appeal and is beautifully produced.—Patricia Aakre, P.S. 89, New York - Copyright 2020 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.