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Spelling revolution, entertaining history

  • “An Inconvenient Alphabet” by Beth Anderson and Elizabeth Baddeley

Words are weird.

Ever find yourself writing a word and suddenly wondering if you spelled it right?​

Why does “of” sound like “ov”? Or spelling “knife” with a silent “k”? You aren’t the only one!​

Great thinkers such a Benjamin Franklin (a founding father) and Noah Webster (father of the dictionary) wondered the same things themselves!​

“An Inconvenient Alphabet: Benjamin Franklin & Noah Webster’s Spelling Revolution” by Beth Anderson and illustrator Elizabeth Baddeley have created a wonderful children’s book to explore the fascinating (and little-known) history of American English.​

Published by renown publishing house Simon & Schuster, “An Inconvenient Alphabet” is a well-researched book which explores the radical efforts by Benjamin Franklin and Noah Webster during the American Revolutionary era to make English into a written language form which would match the sounds we make when we speak it. “Lam” instead of “lamb”; “nok” instead of “knock”, and countless other phonetic changes. ​

As with all things new, it was met with resistance, for good and bad reasons. Yet in the end, though their complete overhaul of English was not accepted, their efforts did leave a lasting impact on the language they sought to change.​

There is a reason why Americans write English differently from British English (“honor” instead of “honour”, or “color” instead of “colour”) — and you can thank Mr. Franklin and Mr. Webster for that!​

Don’t let the history lesson fool you! This book is vibrantly colorful, entertaining for kids to read (or for the parents to read to the kids), and memorable to be certain!

Fun characters are spread throughout the large pages, even dogs and cats run about the images, getting into all sorts of situations. Best of all, even us adults will learn something from “An Inconvenient Alphabet”! We did!


Ed Justus is the owner of Talk Story Bookstore in Hanapepe. Yuriko and Ed Justus are Kalaheo residents. Talk Story Bookstore is open daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and until 9 p.m. Fridays.


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