Title: The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus Author: Jen Bryant Illustrator: Melissa Sweet Publisher: Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2014 Genre: Picture book, nonfiction/biography Audience Age: 5 to 10 Themes/topics: Words, lists, Peter Mark Roget's ...
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The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus by Jen Bryant, ill by Melissa Sweet — Book Recommendation

Title: The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus

Author: Jen Bryant

Illustrator: Melissa Sweet

Publisher: Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2014

Genre: Picture book, nonfiction/biography

Audience Age: 5 to 10

Themes/topics: Words, lists, Peter Mark Roget’s life, thesaurus

Opening Sentences (sort of): Peter snuggled deeper into Uncle’s lap as the carriage clattered through the valleys of Switzerland. Baby Annette slept in Mother’s arms, a small pink blossom against a wall of black.

Synopsis: Excellent, fascinating biography of the man who created Roget’s Thesaurus. He began making lists at the age of 8, lists that eventually grew into the thesaurus that we still use today (in various editions). Melissa Sweet’s illustrations are a wild conglomeration of typesetter’s letters, penciled lists, botanical prints, all kinds of things — and they’re fascinating to look at and read and take in. It’s the sort of book an older child could pore over for ages, over and over and over again.

Activities/Resources: You can see the book trailer and find links to interviews, articles, and other resources at Jen Bryant’s website.

As Kirkus Reviews concludes, “In a word, marvelous!”

At the website Art of the Picture Book, you can find an in-depth look at Melissa Sweet’s illustrations, along with examples.

Here’s Melissa Sweet’s website.

I hope you’ll take some time to look through this amazing book and enjoy, relish, take delight in, appreciate… (words found at the Hyperlinked Roget’s Thesaurus.)


Quicksand Pond by Janet Taylor Lisle — Book Recommendation

Title: Quicksand Pond

Author: Janet Taylor Lisle

Publisher: New York: Atheneum, Simon and Schuster, 2017

Genre: Middle Grade fiction

Audience Age: 9 to 12 years

Themes/topics: Friendship, family dynamics, rumors, kids and older people

Opening Sentences: The two boys who vanished in the pond that night were farm kids, cousins of some kind. They had the same last name, Peckham. Terri Carr told the story to Jessie the day they met on the raft.

Synopsis: Jessie, the main character, has come with her dad, her older sister and her younger brother, to live in a rundown vacation rental near a pond that has some quicksand areas – but also has an old decrepit raft, that Jessie and Terri begin to fix up.

The process of fixing up the raft both helps them build their friendship, and forge a bond of sorts with the old woman in the big house near the pond. The process also brings into the focus the problems Terri has at home, the false accusations that swirl around her family, the problems Jessie and Terri have with their friendship, and an old, wrongly solved murder that the old woman witnessed as a child when her parents were both killed. It’s the sort of story that draws you in with a quicksand of its own, and shows how false accusations can sink a reputation just as surely as the quicksand that caused the Peckham boys to disappear years before.

As the quote from Kathi Appelt on the back cover says, “One false accusation, tossed like a stone into a pond, creates a ripple effect that damages a family for generations.”

But there is hope. There is always hope.

For Further Enrichment:

The author’s website is here.

See the Publishers Weekly review here and the Kirkus review here.

There is a reading guide at the Simon and Schuster website.



Please Bury Me in the Library by J. Patrick Lewis — book recommendation

First of all, I’d like to give a shout-out and a hearty thank you to Susanna Leonard Hill, who featured the Perfect Picture Book Friday post from my archives about her delightful picture book, Punxsutawney Phyllis, on Friday (appropriately enough, Groundhog Day.)

Now, on to today’s P is for Please Bury Me in the Library post:

Title: Please Bury Me in the Library

Author: J. Patrick Lewis

Illustrator: Kyle M. Stone

Publisher: Orlando, FL: Gulliver Books/Harcourt, 2005

Genre: Picture book, poetry

Audience Age: 4 to 8 years

Themes/topics: Libraries, books, poems, the magic of words

From my favorite of the poems, titled A Classic: A children’s book is a classic/If at six, excitedly/You read it to another kid/Who just turned sixty-three.

Synopsis: How could I resist a book with that title? And it didn’t disappoint, although it did surprise. It’s a collection of sixteen poems, mainly humorous, some with a touch of the macabre, by noted humorous poet, J. Patrick Lewis. I confess I hadn’t encountered his work before. There is a poem entitled Please Bury Me in the Library, but it’s not all about being buried! The collection celebrates books, reading, libraries, words – all things that I love. The illustrations are delightful. They also have a touch of the macabre, but not too scarily so. I think older kids would enjoy this book. Note that it was published in 2005.

Activities/Resources: The author was Children’s Poet Laureate in the United States from 2011 to 2013. Learn more about him at the Poetry Foundation website and at his own website.

This post from a blog about the poetry of J. Patrick Lewis (but not by him) is filled with information about the book and activities and discussion questions.

There are interviews with the poet and other activities at Teaching Books.

Availability: Although it was published in 2005, it still seems to be available. Or you can always find it (as I did) at the library (just don’t get buried – not yet!)


Okay For Now by Gary Schmidt — Reprise Book Recommendation

This was first posted on June 4, 2015. I hope you enjoy revisiting this book! If you haven’t already read it, I urge you to do so.

Title: Okay for Now

Author: Gary D. Schmidt

Publisher: New York: Sandpiper, 2011, 2013.

Genre: Late Middle Grade, early YA

Audience Age: 11 to 14 years old

Themes/topics: growing up with an abusive parent, trying to fit in at a new school, teenage illiteracy, the power of art

Opening Sentences:

Joe Pepitone once gave me his New York Yankees baseball cap.

I’m not lying.

He gave it to me. To me, Doug Swieteck. To me.


Okay for Now is a companion volume to The Wednesday Wars, which I featured on Monday. In terms of time period, it takes up where The Wednesday Wars left off, in the summer of 1968. It tells the story of Doug Swieteck, the kid who bullied Holling Hoodhood in the earlier book.

In Okay for Now, Doug, his abusive father and his troublemaker brother have just moved from Long Island to upstate New York, where his father has been promised a job. Doug’s other brother is fighting in Viet Nam.

Doug didn’t want to move. He’s filled with resentment and fear. He’s afraid of his father, afraid of what his brother is getting into, afraid it will be found out that he can’t read, afraid he will be tormented at his new school.

The book is told in the first person. That immediately draws the reader into the story, into Doug’s person. It is the perfect way to show his attitude – his attempt to cover his fear with a veneer of hard coolness. The reader sees that there is something past that, but he only lets us into the depths of what is going on very slowly. It takes a while before we realize that he can’t read, for example.

Despite his illiteracy, he is drawn to the library, where he discovers a book in a glass display case, a book filled with the amazing bird paintings of John James Audubon. Doug starts trying to copy one of the drawings, holding his hand as if it held a pencil, moving it over the glass of the case.

He doesn’t realize it, but a librarian has seen him, and leaves paper and pencil for him, then begins teaching him how to draw. One day, however, the page has been turned. He has to start working on a different bird drawing. The librarian won’t say why the page has been turned.

As Doug becomes more adept at drawing, and the librarian grows to trust him more, Doug learns that the library is slowly selling off the pages of this rare book. Doug’s life becomes a quest not only to find meaning for himself, but also to discover who has purchased the drawings and then get them back.

This book draws the reader in (pun not intended) even when the reader feels rebuffed by Doug’s sometimes harsh attitude. The story compels the reader forward – I read it voraciously. It is a powerful book that sometimes brings hurt to the surface, sometimes joy, and always feels real. I highly recommend it.

For Further Enrichment: There is an educator’s guide and a webcast on the author’s website.

There is an excellent article and interview on National Public Radio’s website.

Kids can learn more about Audubon by watching this video at PBS’s Thirteen  and by reading this National Geographic article.

There’s a lesson plan for teaching kids about the Viet Nam War here, at PBS.

Here’s an article for teachers about teenage illiteracy  and a website to help parents and caregivers make literacy part of everyday life.


No One But You by Douglas Wood — Reprise Book Recommendation

For the next few weeks, I’ll be reprising a few posts from the archives. I hope you’ll enjoy revisiting these posts, as I have. This was originally shared as a Perfect Picture Book post on October 26, 2012.

This lovely book explores the way each of us sees things differently. We are both the same and unique at once, and that itself is something to celebrate!

Title: No One But You

Author: Douglas Wood

Illustrator: P.J. Lynch

Publisher: Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press, 2011

Genre: Picture book

Audience Age: 4 to 9 years old

Themes and topics: nature, individuality, uniqueness

Opening Sentences: There are so many things in the world, so many important things to be taught, to be shown. But the best things, the most important ones of all, are the ones no one can teach you or show you or explain. No one can discover them but you.

Synopsis: In this book, Douglas Wood, author of Old Turtle and Miss Little’s Gift, among others,  shows how each person is unique and how no one can experience nature, or life, or anything else in exactly the same way as you. To do this, he takes experiences that we share, and proclaims and celebrates the fact that although we each experience them, we each experience them in our own special way. “No one but you can walk through a rain puddle in your bare feet.” The illustrations are beautiful, each double-page spread featuring a child experiencing some facet of nature very closely, and very personally. It is not so much a story as a litany of celebration of the individual in the context of nature appreciation. As such, it’s the perfect book with which to close my month-long look at picture books that encourage kids to look closely at the natural world around them.

Activities/Resources: The activity that I encourage along with all nature books, to go on a nature walk and look as closely as one can at the wonders of nature is taken one step further with this book, in suggesting that the children reflect on how their experience is unique in all the world even though it seems just the same as that of the person next to them. On a blog called Two Writing Teachers, the teachers take this further, by suggesting that kids write about their own unique perspectives on a nature walk.

Activities that celebrate individuality and uniqueness, even those unrelated to nature, would be excellent accompaniments to a reading of this book. A class doing an art project or a writing exercise from the same model or prompt, then sharing their work, and non-judgmentally noting the different ways the same inspiration can be interpreted is one possibility. Doing an experiment with thumbprints is another, having children put their thumbprints on paper (using washable ink!) and then comparing them.


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