Monday, January 28, 2008

Non Fiction Monday: Ox, House, Stick

Anastasia Suen has instituted Non Fiction Mondays on the children's literature blogs: it's the hard-working Monday to the frivolity of Poetry Friday! Join in, won't you?

Today for Non Fiction Monday I bring you a review of a book my mother read and enjoyed greatly.

This review was written by Alice Herold.

Ox, House, Stick: The History of Our Alphabet, by Don Robb, illustrated by Anne Smith

Scientists interested in the history of languages have traced our alphabet back about 4, 000 years. Ox, House, Stick tells the origin of some of the letters. I was surprised that A was named for an ox in the early Sinaitic alphabet. Turn it upside down and it shows the horns of an ox. Anne Smith contributes helpful pictures on the sides of each page of Ox, House, Stick showing what the letter looked like in Sinaitic, Phoenician, Early Greek, Classical Greek, and Roman Latin.

Robb explains that scientists are fairly certain that our D began as the Phoenician letter daleth meaning door. M in its original Sinaitic form means water. O, P, R, and S came from words for part of the head.

I found it interesting that Greeks wrote in both directions--called "boustrophedon"--which means "as the ox plows," turning at the end of the row to go back the other way.

The Romans became tired of reading words without spaces between them so they began to put a dot between sentences. The dot later became the punctuation mark we call a period.

Ox, House, Stick is an educational, fascinating book especially since I read it one day after visiting the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition. Robb includes lists of websites and additional resources at the end of the book.