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P Is for Pterodactyl: The Worst Alphabet Book Ever

Book review by
Regan McMahon, Common Sense Media
P Is for Pterodactyl: The Worst Alphabet Book Ever Book Poster Image
Wacky alphabet book pokes fun at silent letters and more.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Within an unconventional alphabet-book structure, P Is for Pterodactyl introduces kids to words that have silent letters, word origins and spelling, and homonyms. It also shows how different letters can make the same sounds, as on the "W is for Wren" page: "The wren wrapped the rabbit's gift in red, but forgot to write a note." 

Positive Messages

English is a fun language -- but some "wacky words" can be confusing, tricky, and "nearly impossible to pronounces," with "letters thant misbehave." 

Positive Role Models & Representations

People from different lands and cultures, and people of color, are pictured in the illustrations.

Violence & Scariness
Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that P Is for Pterodactyl shows kids lots of English words that are hard to spell (or pronounce) because they begin with silent letters, like pterodactyl, aisleknight, and knot, or have silent letters in them. It also gets into words that come from languages other than English, like gnocci and tsunami, and plays with homonyms like sea and see. Every page has a fun, cartoon-like illustration and sentence below it that help kids understand the meaning and context of the words. P Is for Pterodactyl  is a word lover's delight and an almost mandatory read-aloud. Includes a glossary at the back.

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What's the story?

P IS FOR PTERODACTYL is unlike any alphabet book you've seen before. It highlights words that begin with silent letters or contain them. And it not only says what words the letters are for (like "C is for Czar"), but also, in some cases, points out what they're not for, as in "F is not for Photo, phlegm, phooey, or phone." It also gets into homonyms, like see and sea. On the "O is for Ouija" page, we see a leopard wearing a red beret playing with a Ouija board, two kids, and a tiny witch. Below the picture the sentence reads, "The French leopard says, 'Oui! We'd love to play Ouija with the wee witch from Oaxaca.'"

Is it any good?

This unconventional alphabet book makes a great read aloud and will open kids' minds to the crazy world of words and spelling. Reading P is for Pterodactyl aloud is a must for younger kids, given amusing but complex sentences like: "The tsunami washed away all of Tchaikovsky's chintzy tchotchkes," which appears below a cartoon-like illustration of a giant wave about to crash on the classical composer and his piano. A fun twist on the alphabet book structure is having some entires that tell readers what a letter is not for, as in "U is not for You," and Y is not for Why."

Amid all the humor, wordplay and silliness, there's solid, brain-teasing information about words and how they're spelled. It a delight from start to finish, especially for word lovers and their offspring. But many words (like euphoric and eulogy) and sentences are challenging and may require grown-up assistance/explanation. There's also is a handy glossary at the back.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the silent-letter words in P Is for Pterodactyl. Which ones were new to you? Which ones had you heard before but didn't know what letter they started with? 

  • How is this book different from other alphabet books you've read?

  • How do the pictures help you understand the meaning of each word? Which picture is your favorite? Which one is the funniest? Is it easier to learn something new when it's funny or has a funny picture on the page?  

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