by Frank Lipsius
If the summer is good for exploring the byways of curious reading, it is also a time to find exceedingly useful books such as Harriet Wittels and Joan Greisman’s The Clear and Simple How To Spell It (Grosset & Dunlap, $10.99), a book that starts with how you might want to spell a word and shows how it really is spelled. Of course, you need to make the same assumptions as the authors, but they know what is confusing, like one word that I could never find in the dictionary because I looked under “eg,” just as they have it as “egzaggerate” to get to the right spelling, “exaggerate.”
Patricia T. O’Connor’s Woe Is I Jr.: The Young Grammar-phobe’s Guide to Better English (Putnam, $16.99) turns everyone’s phobia, grammar, into an understandable puzzle with new ways to make it fun, or at least worthwhile, to learn. She makes you see why it’s important, as her example “chocolate is suite” shows, to pay attention to spelling in order not to look silly, if for no other reason.
Jon Agee’s Smart Feller Fart Smeller: And Other Spoonerisms (Hyperion, $14.95), has fun with the mixing of initial letters, originally attributed to a smart but absent-minded professor named Spooner, which turns “lousy drama” into “drowsy llama” and “pouring rain” into “roaring pain.” The illustrations add to the amusement that lurks among the wonders of English.
Clockwise: A Time Telling Tale by Sara Pinto (Bloomsbury, $16.95) shows how to tell time through pictures of one-handed clocks. With only the hour hand as a way to tell time, it shows how the hours change and create the two-step process showing how the little hand just makes the clock a little more accurate between the hours.
Barbara Joose has an unsubtle message in Please Is a Good Thing to Say (Philomel, $12.99), to start youngsters off on their way to better manners. De-spite Jennifer Plecas’s sprightly drawings of the bossy little know-it-all who gives the lessons, like all manners books, you wonder how polite it is to give to someone else.
G is for One Gzonk: A Silly Alphabet by Tiny DiTerlooney (Simon & Schuster, $12.99) is a large set of smooth illustrated alphabet flash cards that have the old-fashioned and high-hatted, high fashion feel of an old Victorian book such as Alice in Wonderland. The cards also come as a more elaborately written book (Simon & Schuster, $16.95) with a story that is imaginative and disjointed in a way that Lewis Carroll would have admired along with the pictures.
Philadelphian Mark Rogalski’s impressive book debut from local Running Press, Tickets to Ride: An Alphabetic Amusement (Running Press, $15.95), takes the alphabet to an amusement park of the author’s mind with very colorful cars and courses to amuse the letters and readers.
Flashcards make useful portable games, especially the game Alan Katz invented for elementary school kids called That’s Right, That’s Wrong (Little Simon, $9.99 each), where the contestants choose the wrong of two answers as the right answer. A twist often mixes the right and wrong answers to add some challenge and hilarity.
Frank Lipsius is a contributing writer to MetroKids.