'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Friday 25 September 2020

Review: Alphamaniacs

Alphamaniacs: Builders of the 26 Wonders of the Word, is a rare jewel.
Enveloped in a scintillating narrative by talented children’s author Paul Fleischman, 26 word masters throughout history appear with examples and stories about their particular inventions using letters and language. 

Enfolded in clever word play and interesting concepts, famous people who did all this, delight and inform us about the flexibility and innovation of language. 
David Nussbaum created reformed stories from anything he could think of, from The Bible to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, using the letters and numbers on Californian license plates.

Who can forget the eye writing of Jean-Dominique Bauby, the famous editor of Elle magazine? Intelligent and cultured, he suffered a rare stroke to the brain stem and fell into a coma. With locked-in syndrome, his mind still alive and active, all he could move was one eyelid. This resulted in him blinking at letters of the alphabet recited to him, to create masterpieces of language.

The most moving and poetic words were extracted from him in this manner. His book, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly was published two days before he died.

Thomas Urquhart was a wordaholic. Verbose and over-expansive, verbal cascades were his speciality. When a universal English language was suggested by Rene Descartes, Urquhart decided he was the best candidate for the job. The outcome is hilarious!

The decline of language is similar to the decline of anything else. It is mourned, resurrected, replaced, discarded, removed, sometimes recalled and revived.

That is what Jessie Little Doe Baird set out to do; revive the Wampanoag language, Wopanaotaaok. And she succeeded! Reclaiming our language is one means of repairing the broken circle of cultural loss and pain. Then there is Howard Chase, who created the Anguish Language. Lots of laughter cramps with this one!

What an amazing book! It is a unique and historical exploration of linguistics. I highly recommend readers to check it out. You will be astonished at the quality of every part of it, from the stunning art by Melissa Sweet, the beautiful paper used, and the design and layout on every page.

Book collectors alert! Don’t miss this one!

Title: Alphamaniacs
Author: Paul Fleischman
Illustrator: Art by Melissa Sweet
Publisher: Walker Books, $27.99
Publication Date: May 2020
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 9780763690663
For ages: 10+
Type: Non Fiction