ESL Instructors–Is This Book for Ewe?

Today is Book Lovers Day, an unofficial holiday celebrating the love of books. It's a great excuse to relax and read. 

I picked an easy book to enjoy, P Is for Pterodactyl: The Worst Alphabet Book Ever, written by rapper Raj Haldar and Chris Carpenter and illustrated by Maria Tina Beddia. If you haven't seen this gem published by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky last year, you will want to.
P Is for Pterodactyl

It's "the worst alphabet book ever" because none of the letters play the roles we expect them to play. is not for popcorn; it's for pterodactyl, where it's silent. ("Ptolemy the psychic pterodactyl struggles with psoriasis.") C is not for cat; it's for czar and CzechAnd is not for elephant; it's for ewe. 

The book is a testament to our random, crazy English. How can people learning English as a new language not become confused, when the letter surprises in so many ways? (See below.)

A is for Aisle  P Is for Pterodactyl

This book might be a fun gift for someone learning English. It would validate their frustration with the endless exceptions of the language, and it might help with memorizing them. "The honest heir" and "the noble knight's knife" seem like excellent mnemonic phrases to me. (One entry is "M is for Mnemonic.") A glossary with pronunciation tips covers 47 of the linguistic exceptions. For example, mnemonic is defined this way:

Mnemonic (pronounced neh-MON-ic)–A handy way of remembering something hard by connecting it to something easy. The next time you need to remember something, try making your own.

Although the book is described as a juvenile picture book, the clever writing and illustrations make second and third readings a pleasure, even for an adult. Of course, with a young child, 30th and 40th readings would be fun too. 

You can see more illustrations from P Is for Pterodactyl on Amazon. The book retails for $17.99.

If you are mastering English as a second language, would you enjoy this book? 

On Book Lovers Day and every day, what are your favorite books on language?

Syntax Training


  1. Favorites of mine: “The Devil’s Dictionary” by Ambrose Bierce, and “Anguish Languish” by Howard Chace.
    Brooke Rolston

  2. Lynn,

    Sorry for this comment, but isn’t the word supposed to be “enTry”, as in “One entry is ‘M for Mnemonic'” rather than “One enry is ‘M for Mnemonic'”?

  3. Hi everyone! I appreciate your comments.

    Brooke, thank you for those two tomes. I look forward to dipping into them.

    George, your search string brought up several gems. Thank you!

    John, thank you for the correction. I’ve made the change. I had proofread the piece several times but then made a change in that sentence. Silly me!

    Nick, hah! Yes, I’ve fallen off my high horse–but only temporarily.

    Allison, “Bad English” sounds good. Thanks for the tip.


  4. Hello Lynn,

    It took me a little while to put it into today’s younger language. When read as a following greeting between teenagers ( complex hand gestures included while pulling the other into a tighter embrace if friendship or family bonds are strong), I have worked out it is another form of “gidday mate, what’s new?” here in Australia. mainly Islander or Maori in greeting.


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