P is for Pterodactyl: The ‘worst alphabet book’ is a bestseller
Rapper and a computer programmer came up with it as a joke. Now it's a modern classic
It’s a word-nerd’s wet dream – a too-clever alphabet picture book dreamt up by a rapper and a computer programmer as a joke about silent letters in English sells out its small, independently published, 10,000 print run and becomes a runaway bestseller. That’s what’s happened to the self-described “worst alphabet book ever” P is for Pterodactyl published last month and now in demand by hundreds of thousands of geeky readers and parents after its appearance on the New York Times bestseller list.
Created by Raj Haldar (also known as rapper Lushlife) and his friend, computer programmer Chris Carpenter, the book was conceived as a humorous look at silent letters in English – M is for Mnemonic, T is for Tsunami and so on.
Kelly Barrales-Saylor, editorial director of Sourcebooks who published the final book, told the Guardian: “Word nerds, like me, love to argue about the complexities of the English language. Silent letters and absurd homophones can be incredibly maddening for all of us, but especially for kids just learning their ABCs or how to read.”
Whatever the book’s charms, they’re certainly working – the publisher reports they have 100,000 unfulfilled orders as they wait for the next print run of 210,000 to be completed. The book is in eighth spot on the New York Times list.
Haldar told The Guardian it was not easy to come up with words for certain letters which would fit within the framework he and Carpenter had created for themselves. “There are plenty of silent first-letter words but there are letters where there are very few examples and we had to come up with creative ways to think within the rubric of what we were trying to do.”
He adds: “For the letter B, there is only one word in the English language starting with a silent B. Folks can get the book to figure that out.”