The Story Behind ‘P Is For Pterodactyl,’ The Self-Described ‘Worst Alphabet Book Ever’ | Modern Society of USA

The Story Behind ‘P Is For Pterodactyl,’ The Self-Described ‘Worst Alphabet Book Ever’

The Story Behind ‘P Is For Pterodactyl,’ The Self-Described ‘Worst Alphabet Book Ever’

“P Is for Pterodactyl” — the children’s picture book by Raj Haldar and Chris Carpenter that bills itself as “the worst alphabet book ever” — is an A-to-Z primer featuring words that start with silent letters: C is for Czar, K is for Knight, T is for Tsunami and so on. As The Times’s review said, “You can curse the English language for its insane spelling rules (or lack thereof), or you can delight in it, as this raucous trip through the odd corners of our alphabet does.”

Haldar, also known as the rapper Lushlife, told The Guardian that he and Carpenter got the idea for the book after watching a friend’s child play with alphabet flashcards. “Q was for quinoa,” he recalled. “We were laughing about how it phonetically sounds weird — plus, I didn’t have quinoa until I was, like, 25. We were joking about that and started talking about how it would be even sillier if an entire alphabet hinged on silent letters.”

Last Nov. 6, a week before “P Is for Pterodactyl” came out, the kids’-book website Imagination Soup raved about it on Facebook, writing that it was “perfect for logophiles (someone who loves words)!” The post went viral and drew over 4,000 commenters, many of them word nerds who shared jokes about puns, silent letters and homophones: “Why can’t you hear a pterodactyl using the bathroom? Because the P is silent!” The story blew up Reddit, too, and “P Is for Pterodactyl” sold out of its 10,800-copy first printing the day it was published.

Not quite three months later, the book is in its seventh week on the children’s picture book best-seller list with 210,000 copies in print. “I have never seen anything like this before,” says Kelly Barrales-Saylor, the editorial director of children’s nonfiction at Sourcebooks Kids who remembers “giggling at my desk the entire time I was reading the proposal.” She thinks one of the reasons “P Is for Pterodactyl” has done so well is that it appeals to both adults and children. “Kids think it’s hysterical because they’ve been taught all the rules of spelling and phonics and now here are all these ridiculous words that break the rules they just learned,” she says. “And adults think it’s hilarious because we know how ridiculous all those rules are in the first place.”

Her favorite entry in the book is the one for N. “‘N is not for Knot.’ It already sounds like a mistake as you read it aloud,” she says. “Cue the children laughing at you for sounding like a ridiculous adult. Cue the adults laughing at the ridiculousness of our English language.”

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