An Inconvenient Alphabet: Ben Franklin & Noah Webster's Spelling Revolution

illus. by Elizabeth Baddeley. 48p. bibliog. notes. S. & S. Sept. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781534405554.
Gr 2–4—Anderson builds on readers' familiarity with the American Revolution and Benjamin Franklin to deliver a lively account of how Franklin teamed up with Noah Webster to help create an English spelling system unique to people in the United States. There was much trial and error and many failed ideas around creating a new alphabet, with many of the concepts proposed facing strong criticism and outright rejection by the public. It was not until long after Franklin's death that Webster finally publish his first ever Compendious Dictionary of the English Language. The combination of bold illustrations, humorous anecdotes, and fabulous storytelling makes this true tale anything but boring. It provides a much-needed introduction to the art of spelling and dictionaries while remaining engaging and well paced. Despite discussing wordsmiths from over 200 years ago, Anderson delicately balances Franklin and Webster's dreams with grade-level appropriate vocabulary and readability.
VERDICT The potentially dry topic of American English etymology is transformed into a delightful, relatable, and eye-catchingly illustrated tale that will have readers rooting for the success of the dictionary. Most collections will want to consider.

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