Alpha Better by Linda Ragsdale

If you need a book about wordplay and the fun we can have with language, find a copy of Linda Ragsdale’s Alpha Better (2017, Flowerpot Press). Illustrated by Martina Hogan, this creative and unique wordinary (word + dictionary) is the perfect book to help children fall in love with words.

Ragsdale meshes different words together to create new words for each letter of the alphabet (except z, which proves problematic).  For example, she creates the words astonding (astonishing + outstanding), friendunderful (friend + fun + wonderful), and phenomenational (phenomenal + inspirational). Intended for young readers, Alpha Better could also be used in the secondary classroom to help students learn about the concept of remixing.

Another element important to note is the book’s classification as A Peace Dragon Tale. Although I agree wholeheartedly with the Peace Dragon mission, I felt that the messages at the bottom of the book are a bit forced. The page on which astonding appears, for example, includes the following message: “Allept (Allow + Accept) Allow yourself to be you, and accept that others are different.”

The wordplay and the messages create a sense of dual purposes that detracts from what the book could be if only one purpose (i.e., to show kids how to play with language or to teach kids life lessons) was conveyed. Either goal would have been fine, but the dual purposes make the book less enjoyable for me.

Before I sign off today, I want to comment on Hogan’s illustrations. Vibrant and energetic, they make Ragsdale’s words pop. The accompanying animals, flowers, and shapes are sure to delight readers of all ages.

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