cover image Alphamaniacs: 26 Builders of Wonders of the Word

Alphamaniacs: 26 Builders of Wonders of the Word

Paul Fleischman, illus. by Melissa Sweet. Candlewick Studio, $19.99 (160p) ISBN 978-0-7636-9066-3

With a ringmaster’s rhetorical flourishes, Fleischman invites readers to step right up and be dazzled by 26 “imaginers [and] tinkerers” who explore “the airy land of letters.” Readers encounter Daniel Nussbaum’s PL8SPK (translating literary works using the vocabulary of vanity license plates); Doris Cross’s artful erasures, which turn dictionary pages into poems; Wompanoag Jessie Little Doe Baird’s heroic reclamation of a vanished language; and Jean-Dominique Bauby’s astounding communications following a stroke, delivered with the flick of an eyelid. Other subjects include a verbal prankster who has crafted a whole novel without an E and an obsessive scanning texts for secret messages. Each individual is given a brief chapter recounting their word-related exploits, interleaved with colorful, collaged illustrations by Sweet that look like stray pages from an artist’s overstuffed sketchbook, incorporating relevant quotes and amplifying Fleischman’s themes of abundance and possibility. A unique amalgam, one that will charm many. Ages 12–up. (Apr.)