How the ‘worst alphabet book ever’ brings levity to kids learning how to read

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"P is for Pterodactyl" has been on the New York Times best-seller list for 10 weeks. (Courtesy of Sourcebooks Jabberwocky)

Maria Tina Beddia, an illustrator who grew up in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, knows learning to read can be tough.

Beddia, now based in Philadelphia, describes herself as a visual learner who began to feel the stress of reading during the fourth grade.

“Reading was supposed to be at a certain level, and I just felt a lot of pressure,” she said. “I felt like I really needed to catch up to these kids that learned a different way.”

So when rapper Raj Haldar and software developer Chris Carpenter approached her to do the illustrations for the book “P is for Pterodactyl,” she was immediately on board.

The New York Times best-seller pokes fun at silent letters in the English language and some other funky phonetic exceptions. The book cover states that it’s “the worst alphabet book ever.”

“F is not for photo, phlegm, phooey or phone,” reads one line. “F is only for foto when you speak fluent Spanish at home.”

Calling it a clever concept, Beddia said she couldn’t believe the book didn’t already exist.

“With a lot of lessons or rules that the English language has, some of it doesn’t make any sense and I feel when you have something you can actually look at, it starts to resonate,” she said.

The book features scenes, such as a gnat eating a garden gnome’s dinner. The meal? Gnocchi, of course.

At a funeral for wolves, Eileen the ewe delivers the eulogy because she’s so euphoric.

“P is for Pterodactyl” has been on the New York Times best-seller list for 10 weeks. (Courtesy of Sourcebooks Jabberwocky)

“The English language is super complex. And all those rules that they give you, they can just as easily at the turn of a corner be broken by another word,” said Haldar.

Haldar, who lived in South Philadelphia for about a decade, now splits his time between Philadelphia and New York City. He said loves to play with language but at first, he was concerned the book would confuse children, though that worry quickly went away.

“Kids love to kind of explore unwieldy huge words that are kind of silly to roll off the tongue,” he said.

Reading the book with children, Haldar said he’s learned that once they get a real sense of the complexities of the language, they’re up for the challenge.

Haldar also hopes “P is for Pterodactyl” is the kind of book children can go back to as they grow older and get a deeper understanding each time — like his favorite books by Roald Dahl, Dr. Seuss, and Shel Silverstein.

The book Haldar, Beddia, and Carpenter created has been on the New York Times best-seller list for 10 weeks. It’s one Beddia said she wishes had been around when she was growing up.

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