January 18 – National Thesaurus Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-right-word-cover

About the Holiday

Today we celebrate that most marvelous, stupendous, spectacular, cool, awe-inspiring, remarkableand—one from my early youth—groovy book, the thesaurus! Without its incredible cross-referenced lists of synonyms and antonyms, the world would be much more boring, dull, lackluster, monotonous place. Today, spice up your speech and writing with the perfect word to express all the nuances of life!

The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus

Written by Jen Bryant | Illustrated by Melissa Sweet

 

While just a young child, Peter, along with his mother, his uncle, and his baby sister Annette, travel to their new home following the death of his father. It would not be his first move, and in the absence of long-time friends, Peter found companionship in books. When he was eight years old, he began writing his own book titled: Peter, Mark, Roget. His Book. But this was not a book of stories or even one story; it was a book of lists. The first list was divided in two. On one side were the Latin words he knew; on the other were their definitions.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-right-word-roget-peter-starts-his-book

Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2014, text copyright Jen Bryant, 2014. Courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

Peter’s mother hovered and worried over her son, and he always told her he was “fine.” “Although, to be honest, Peter thought, fine wasn’t quite the right word.” As the years went by, Peter added lists to his book, prompting his mother to complain about his constant “scribbling.” But Peter looked at his lists differently. “Words, Peter learned, were powerful things. And when he put them in long, neat rows, he felt as if the world itself clicked into order.”

As a teenager Peter was shy, preferring to wander the London gardens alone, “making lists of all the plants and insects,” as in one of his favorite science books by Linnaeus. His “mother didn’t approve, and Peter told her not to worry—but “perhaps worry wasn’t quite the right word. What was the right word? Peter began a new list: Worry, fret, grieve, despair, intrude, badger, annoy, plague, provoke, harass. Enough to drive one mad. How wonderful it felt to find just the right word.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-right-word-roget-fine

Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2014, text copyright Jen Bryant, 2014. Courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

An idea crept into Peter’s mind for a book where “all the ideas in the world could be found in one place,” and people could “find the best word, the one that really fit.” When Peter was 14 he entered medical school in Edinburgh, Scotland. Upon graduation at 19, his uncle told him that patients would be wary of a doctor so young. To gain a bit of experience and maturity, Peter became a tutor to two teenage boys.

At last Peter set up his medical practice in Manchester, England, where he took care of the factory workers, who “were poor and often sick.” At night Peter worked on his book of lists, and in 1805 he declared it finished. “It had about one hundred pages, one thousand ideas, and listed more than fifteen thousand words!” Eventually, Peter moved back to London where he joined science societies and attended lectures. “Before long, he was asked to give lectures too,” and once-shy Peter astonished his audiences with his knowledge of math, magnetism, and other scientific subjects. He even invented a portable chess set.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-right-word-mother-worries

Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2014, text copyright Jen Bryant, 2014. Courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

When Peter was 45 years old, he married Mary Hobson, and they had two children, Kate and John. As he grew older, he visited fewer patients, but he continued to take walks and work on his lists. While some other writers had published their own word lists to help people “to speak and to write more politely,” Kate and John “thought their father’s book was much better. Peter agreed.” For three years he rewrote his book. “He made it larger, more organized, and easier to use. Long ago Peter had discovered the power of words. Now he believed that everyone should have this power—everyone should be able to find the right word whenever they needed it.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-right-word-roget-lecturing

Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2014, text copyright Jen Bryant, 2014. Courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

“In 1852, Roget published his Thesaurus, a word that means ‘treasure house’ in Greek.” It was an instant best seller, and Peter became a popular author. But he never stopped making lists.

Following the text, a timeline of principal events in Peter’s life as well as world events allow readers to better understand the historical period in which Peter worked. Extensive Author’s and Illustrator’ Notes also expand on Roget’s biography, and resources for further reading and research are included.

Jen Bryant’s biography of a brilliant boy who grew up to give the world its most fascinating and comprehensive collection of word lists, is a spritely telling of Roget’s life and revelation into his personality, which was perfectly suited to his scientific and written accomplishments. Children will appreciate Roget’s reactions to his mother’s worries as well as the message in his well-rounded pursuit of science and writing. Through Bryant’s captivating and lyrical storytelling, children will be inspired by Roget’s journey from shy child to much-accomplished adult.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-right-word-roget-at-home

Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2014, courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

Melissa Sweet beguiles readers with her mixed media, collage, and watercolor illustrations that are as jam-packed with ideas, images, portraits, and typography as Roget’s thesaurus is full of words. In the early pages describing Peter’s childhood, the pages contain simple framed pictures of Roget and his family. As he grows, however, his lists of words are transformed into vibrant artwork that jostles for position from corner to corner of the pages. In the midst of these, delicate watercolors portray Peter as he strolls through a garden, takes his young charges to Paris, treats his patients, lectures, marries, and finally publishes his thesaurus. A special mention must be made of the typography, which at times in the text runs down the center of the page in one- or two-word lines, mirroring Roget’s love of lists, and in the illustrations presents the myriad synonyms in a mixture of colorful block letters, fine print, and calligraphy.

For bibliophiles, wordsmiths, scientists, and history buffs, The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus is just the right book for home libraries.

Ages 6 – 18

Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2014 | ISBN 978-0802853851

Discover more about Jen Bryant and her books as well as news, contests, and events, visit her website!

Learn more about Melissa Sweet and her books and have fun with the downloadable activities you’ll find on her website!

Watch this The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus book trailer!

Thesaurus Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-synonyms-word-search

Word Words Word Search Puzzle

 

When you’re looking for just the right word, where do you go? To the thesaurus of course! Can you find the 25 synonyms for “Word” in this printable Word Words Word Search Puzzle? Here’s the Solution!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-right-word-cover

You can find The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

July 22 – National Hammock Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-firefly-july-a-year-of-very-short-poems-cover

About the Holiday

Holidays don’t get more leisurely than this one! Perhaps invented by the Ancient Greeks, perhaps created by people in South America according to Christopher Columbus’s journals, hammocks are the epitome of relaxation. What better time is there to kick back and lounge than during the hot, hazy days of July? So enjoy—and read a book, like today’s collection of poetry!

Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems

Selected by Paul B. Janeczko | Illustrated by Melissa Sweet

 

Firefly July is perfect for lazy summer days when light, but still meaningful reading enjoyed in a hammock or under a shady tree is relaxation at its best. Paul B. Janeczko has collected 36 short (none are over eight lines long) poems from some of the best poets of today and yesterday. Haiku, free form, and rhyming verses illuminate the seasons of the year and encapsulate unforgettable sights, sounds, and feelings.

A girl’s spring’s respite spent gazing into the bay from shore is depicted in Lillian Morrison’s The Island:

“Wrinkled stone / like an elephant’s skin / on which young birches are treading.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-firefly-july-interior-art

Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2014, text copyright Lillian Morrison, 2014; Gerald Jonas, 2014.  Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

A nighttime train trip provides mystery and ongoing changes in Carl Sandburg’s Window:

“Night from a railroad car window / Is a great, dark, soft thing / Broken across with slashes of light.”

Joyce Sidman’s A Happy Meeting likens a summer rain to romance and life:

“Rain meets dust: / soft, cinnamon kisses. / Quick noisy courtship, / then marriage: mud.”

At the seashore, beach birds are industrious in April Halprin Wayland’s Sandpipers:

“Sandpipers run with / their needle beaks digging—they’re / hemming the ocean.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-firefly-july-interior-art

Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2014, text copyright J. Patrick Lewis, 2014; April Halprin Wayland, 2014. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Jim Harrison and Ted Kooser ask such a beguiling question for autumn:

“What is it the wind has lost / that she keeps looking for / under each leaf?”

And the rising giants of city life inspired Susan Nichols Pulsifer in Tall City:

“Here houses rise so straight and tall / That I am not surprised at all / To see them simply walk away / Into the clouds—this misty day.”

Along the way readers will encounter a pickup truck loaded with old rotary fans and another rusting in a field; fog that decorates and creeps; animals and insects that share our space; our past, our present, and our future. And when it’s time to close the book, Jim Harrison and Ted Kooser reveal:

“A welcome mat of moonlight / on the floor. Wipe your feet / before getting into bed.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-firefly-july-a-year-of-very-short-poems-snow-fence

Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2014, text copyright Ted Kooser, 2014. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

I can only wish I’d been able to visit Melissa Sweet’s studio while she created the illustrations for this book! Each painting is as unique in style, beauty, and emotional effect as the poems they interpret. Her renditions of each poem help readers—especially children unfamiliar with metaphor and abstract imaging—to fully understand and appreciate each poem while also leaving room for personal reflection.

The first thing that strikes a reader when opening Firefly July is the gorgeous juxtaposition and mixture of vibrant color. Her illustrations take readers on a journey from an aqua farm house with a patchwork garden to a serene elephantine rock island to the deep turquoise ocean traversed by ships while the full moon beams down upon them. Readers ride crowded subways, gaze out moving train windows, and visit cities bright in daylight and glowing at night. They frolic through fields of delicate grasses and vibrant flowers, quietly walk snowy paths, and take their place among the stars.

Firefly July is as stunning as any coffee table book and is a must for a young reader’s—or any poetry lover’s—library.

Ages 4 and up

Candlewick Press, 2014 Hardcover ISBN 978-0763648428 | Paperback, 2018 ISBN 978-0763699710

Take a look at more books and artwork by Melissa Sweet on her website!

National Hammock Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hammock-coloring-page

Lazy Days Coloring Page

 

Coloring can be so relaxing—perfect for a day dedicated to kicking back! Color this printable Lazy Days Coloring Page and dream of lounging beside the lake, with the gentle breeze gently rocking the hammock, while you drift off to sleee….zzzz…..

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-firefly-july-a-year-of-very-short-poems-cover

You can find Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

January 9 – Poetry at Work Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-river-of-words-cover

About the Holiday

Today’s holiday encourages people to consider their jobs, their office environment, their coworkers, and maybe even that snack in the desk drawer through the lens of poetry. You may find inspiration in today’s book about William Carlos Williams, who wrote many of his famous and well-loved poems while working as a physician. Whether you find poignancy or humor in your workplace, take a moment to jot down a few thoughts in free verse or rhyme and share your poem with your friends!  

A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams

Written by Jen Bryant | Illustrated by Melissa Sweet

 

Willie Williams was just like the other boys in his neighborhood—well, almost. When the other boys went home after a day of playing, Willie took off for the woods and fields behind his house. “As he walked through the high grasses and along the soft dirt paths, Willie watched everything.” He liked to sit next to the Passaic River and listen to the rhythm of the water as it “went slipping and sliding over the smooth rocks, then poured in a torrent over the falls, then quieted again below.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-river-of-words-high-school

Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2008, courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

But as Willie grew older, he didn’t have time for these leisurely pursuits. In high school, he was on the track team, attended lots of classes, and had even more homework. His was a rushed and hurried life. Except for in English class. There, when his teacher read poetry, he was taken back to the flow of the river. Each line created pictures in Willie’s mind.

One night, Willie began writing his own poems. He copied the English poets he had learned about in school, using structured beats and rhyming endings. But soon these rules began to frustrate Willie; they didn’t give him the freedom to fully express his thoughts. He wanted to write about what he saw nearby, the things he was familiar with. Things, he said, like “plums, wheelbarrows, and weeds, / fire engines, children, and trees— / things I see when I walk down my street / or look out my window.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-river-of-words-sparrows

Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2008, courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

Willie began writing poems the way they came to him, with their own shape and sound. Writing this way made Willie feel free, and he filled notebook after notebook with poems. While Willie wished he could make a living as a poet, writing did not pay much, and he needed to be self-sufficient. Willie’s uncle had been a doctor, and Willie liked the idea of healing people. He wondered, though, if he could be a doctor and still write poetry.

When Willie graduated from high school, he went off to the university to study medicine. There he met the writers Ezra Pound and Hilda Doolittle and the artist Charles Demuth. Spending time with his new friends made his difficult studying easier. After college, Willie returned to his home town of Rutherford and opened his practice. He had so many patients that some people said he was “the busiest man in town.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-river-of-words-attic-room

Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2008, courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

No matter how busy he was, however, he found time to write. Sometimes he jotted lines and ideas on his prescription pads. Then, after his long days at work, Willie climbed to his attic room where he studied the notes he’d made and wrote poems late into the night.

A Timeline, Author’s Note, and Illustrators Note about William Carlos Williams follow the text. The endpapers present a selection of Williams’ poetry.

A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams is an inspirational book for children who have creative ideas of their own and would make an excellent addition to classroom and home libraries.

From the title through to the end of her lyrical biography, Jen Bryant captures the flow of William Carlos Williams’ creative and scientific life, which was as purposeful and free as the river that inspired him. Young readers and would-be writers will find much encouragement and insight in Bryant’s story, which reveals that talent and day-to-day life not only can co-exist but can enrich each other. By showing how Williams broke free from the structures of the poetry he copied, Bryant also motivates children to find their own voice.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-river-of-words-plums

Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2008, courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

Melissa Sweet lends her distinctive collage style of illustration to this story, bringing to life the lines of and natural world reflected in Williams’ poetry. The busy-ness and business of Williams’ days are depicted in vibrant images of winding streets, classrooms, offices, and the outside world where he composed his uniquely revealing poems.

Ages 6 and up

Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2008 | ISBN 978-0802853028

Learn more about Jen Bryant and her books on her website!

Discover more about Melissa Sweet, her books, and her art on her website!

Poetry at Work Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-grow-a-poem-craft

Grow Your Own Poem

 

A poem often grows in your imagination like a beautiful plant—starting from the seed of an idea, breaking through your consciousness, and growing and blooming into full form. With this craft you can create a unique poem that is also a piece of art!

Supplies

  • Printable Leaves Template
  • Printable Flower Template
  • Wooden dowel, 36-inch-long, ½-inch diameter, available in craft or hardware stores
  • Green ribbon, 48 inches long
  • Green craft paint
  • Green paper for printing leaves (white paper if children would like to color the leaves)
  • Colored paper for printing flowers (white paper if children would like to color the flowers)
  • Flower pot or box
  • Oasis, clay, or dirt
  • Hole punch
  • Glue
  • Markers or pens for writing words
  • Crayons or colored pencils if children are to color leaves and flowers

Directions

  1. Paint the dowel green, let dry
  2. Print the leaves and flower templates
  3. Cut out the leaves and flowers
  4. Punch a hole in the bottom of the leaves or flowers
  5. Write words, phrases, or full sentences of your poem on the leaf and flower templates
  6. String the leaves and flowers onto the green ribbon (if you want the poem to read from top to bottom string the words onto the ribbon in order from first to last)
  7. Attach the ribbon to the bottom of the pole with glue or tape
  8. Wrap the ribbon around the pole, leaving spaces between the ribbon
  9. Move the leaves and flowers so they stick out from the pole or look the way you want them to.
  10. Put oasis or clay in the flower pot or box
  11. Stick your poem pole in the pot
  12. Display your poem!

Picture Book Review

August 21 – Poet’s Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-river-of-words-cover

About the Holiday

Today we celebrate poets—both those who are professionally published and those who compose poetry in their secret hearts. Poets bring clarity and new perspectives to life—like a little pinprick of light in a dark room. Whether you like long, epic poems, short, evocative verse, humorous poetry, or poetry set to music, take the opportunity today to enjoy some poetry—or write a bit of your own.

A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams

Written by Jen Bryant | Illustrated by Melissa Sweet

 

Willie Williams was just like the other boys in his neighborhood—well, almost. When the other boys went home after a day of playing, Willie took off for the woods and fields behind his house. “As he walked through the high grasses and along the soft dirt paths, Willie watched everything.” He liked to sit next to the Passaic River and listen to the rhythm of the water as it “went slipping and sliding over the smooth rocks, then poured in a torrent over the falls, then quieted again below.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-river-of-words-high-school

Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2008, courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

But as Willie grew older, he didn’t have time for these leisurely pursuits. In high school, he was on the track team, attended lots of classes, and had even more homework. His was a rushed and hurried life. Except for in English class. There, when his teacher read poetry, he was taken back to the flow of the river. Each line created pictures in Willie’s mind.

One night, Willie began writing his own poems. He copied the English poets he had learned about in school, using structured beats and rhyming endings. But soon these rules began to frustrate Willie; they didn’t give him the freedom to fully express his thoughts. He wanted to write about what he saw nearby, the things he was familiar with. Things, he said, like “plums, wheelbarrows, and weeds, / fire engines, children, and trees— / things I see when I walk down my street / or look out my window.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-river-of-words-sparrows

Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2008, courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

Willie began writing poems the way they came to him, with their own shape and sound. Writing this way made Willie feel free, and he filled notebook after notebook with poems. While Willie wished he could make a living as a poet, writing did not pay much, and he needed to be self-sufficient. Willie’s uncle had been a doctor, and Willie liked the idea of healing people. He wondered, though, if he could be a doctor and still write poetry.

When Willie graduated from high school, he went off to the university to study medicine. There he met the writers Ezra Pound and Hilda Doolittle and the artist Charles Demuth. Spending time with his new friends made his difficult studying easier. After college, Willie returned to his home town of Rutherford and opened his practice. He had so many patients that some people said he was “the busiest man in town.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-river-of-words-attic-room

Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2008, courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

No matter how busy he was, however, he found time to write. Sometimes he jotted lines and ideas on his prescription pads. Then, after his long days at work, Willie climbed to his attic room where he studied the notes he’d made and wrote poems late into the night.

A Timeline, Author’s Note, and Illustrators Note about William Carlos Williams follow the text. The endpapers present a selection of Williams’ poetry.

A River of Words is an inspirational book for children who have creative ideas of their own and would make an excellent addition to classroom and home libraries.

From the title through to the end of her lyrical biography, Jen Bryant captures the flow of William Carlos Williams’ creative and scientific life, which was as purposeful and free as the river that inspired him. Young readers and would-be writers will find much encouragement and insight in Bryant’s story, which reveals that talent and day-to-day life not only can co-exist but can enrich each other. By showing how Williams broke free from the structures of the poetry he copied, Bryant also motivates children to find their own voice.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-river-of-words-plums

Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2008, courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

Melissa Sweet lends her distinctive collage style of illustration to this story, bringing to life the lines of and natural world reflected in Williams’ poetry. The busy-ness and business of Williams’ days are depicted in vibrant images of winding streets, classrooms, offices, and the outside world where he composed his uniquely revealing poems.

Ages 6 and up

Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2008 | ISBN 978-0802853028

Learn more about Jen Bryant and her books on her website!

Discover more about Melissa Sweet, her books, and her art on her website!

Poet’s Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-grow-a-poem-craft

Grow Your Own Poem

 

A poem often grows in your imagination like a beautiful plant—starting from the seed of an idea, breaking through your consciousness, and growing and blooming into full form. With this craft you can create a unique poem that is also a piece of art!

Supplies

  • Printable Leaves Template
  • Printable Flower Template
  • Wooden dowel, 36-inch-long, ½-inch diameter, available in craft or hardware stores
  • Green ribbon, 48 inches long
  • Green craft paint
  • Green paper for printing leaves (white paper if children would like to color the leaves)
  • Colored paper for printing flowers (white paper if children would like to color the flowers)
  • Flower pot or box
  • Oasis, clay, or dirt
  • Hole punch
  • Glue
  • Markers or pens for writing words
  • Crayons or colored pencils if children are to color leaves and flowers

Directions

  1. Paint the dowel green, let dry
  2. Print the leaves and flower templates
  3. Cut out the leaves and flowers
  4. Punch a hole in the bottom of the leaves or flowers
  5. Write words, phrases, or full sentences of your poem on the leaf and flower templates
  6. String the leaves and flowers onto the green ribbon (if you want the poem to read from top to bottom string the words onto the ribbon in order from first to last)
  7. Attach the ribbon to the bottom of the pole with glue or tape
  8. Wrap the ribbon around the pole, leaving spaces between the ribbon
  9. Move the leaves and flowers so they stick out from the pole or look the way you want them to.
  10. Put oasis or clay in the flower pot or box
  11. Stick your poem pole in the pot
  12. Display your poem!

Picture Book Review

January 18 – Thesaurus Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-right-word-roget-cover

About the Holiday

Today we celebrate that most marvelous, stupendous, spectacular, cool, awe-inspiring, remarkableand—one from my early youth—groovy book, the thesaurus! Without its incredible cross-referenced lists of synonyms and antonyms, the world would be much more boring, dull, lackluster, monotonous place. Today, spice up your speech and writing with the perfect word to express all the nuances of life!

The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus

Written by Jen Bryant | Illustrated by Melissa Sweet

 

While just a young child, Peter, along with his mother, his uncle, and his baby sister Annette, travel to their new home following the death of his father. It would not be his first move, and in the absence of long-time friends, Peter found companionship in books. When he was eight years old, he began writing his own book titled: Peter, Mark, Roget. His Book. But this was not a book of stories or even one story; it was a book of lists. The first list was divided in two. On one side were the Latin words he knew; on the other were their definitions.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-right-word-roget-peter-starts-his-book

Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2014, text copyright Jen Bryant, 2014. Courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

Peter’s mother hovered and worried over her son, and he always told her he was “fine.” “Although, to be honest, Peter thought, fine wasn’t quite the right word.” As the years went by, Peter added lists to his book, prompting his mother to complain about his constant “scribbling.” But Peter looked at his lists differently. “Words, Peter learned, were powerful things. And when he put them in long, neat rows, he felt as if the world itself clicked into order.”

As a teenager Peter was shy, preferring to wander the London gardens alone, “making lists of all the plants and insects,” as in one of his favorite science books by Linnaeus. His “mother didn’t approve, and Peter told her not to worry—but “perhaps worry wasn’t quite the right word. What was the right word? Peter began a new list: Worry, fret, grieve, despair, intrude, badger, annoy, plague, provoke, harass. Enough to drive one mad. How wonderful it felt to find just the right word.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-right-word-roget-fine

Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2014, text copyright Jen Bryant, 2014. Courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

An idea crept into Peter’s mind for a book where “all the ideas in the world could be found in one place,” and people could “find the best word, the one that really fit.” When Peter was 14 he entered medical school in Edinburgh, Scotland. Upon graduation at 19, his uncle told him that patients would be wary of a doctor so young. To gain a bit of experience and maturity, Peter became a tutor to two teenage boys.

At last Peter set up his medical practice in Manchester, England, where he took care of the factory workers, who “were poor and often sick.” At night Peter worked on his book of lists, and in 1805 he declared it finished. “It had about one hundred pages, one thousand ideas, and listed more than fifteen thousand words!” Eventually, Peter moved back to London where he joined science societies and attended lectures. “Before long, he was asked to give lectures too,” and once-shy Peter astonished his audiences with his knowledge of math, magnetism, and other scientific subjects. He even invented a portable chess set.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-right-word-mother-worries

Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2014, text copyright Jen Bryant, 2014. Courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

When Peter was 45 years old, he married Mary Hobson, and they had two children, Kate and John. As he grew older, he visited fewer patients, but he continued to take walks and work on his lists. While some other writers had published their own word lists to help people “to speak and to write more politely,” Kate and John “thought their father’s book was much better. Peter agreed.” For three years he rewrote his book. “He made it larger, more organized, and easier to use. Long ago Peter had discovered the power of words. Now he believed that everyone should have this power—everyone should be able to find the right word whenever they needed it.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-right-word-roget-lecturing

Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2014, text copyright Jen Bryant, 2014. Courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

“In 1852, Roget published his Thesaurus, a word that means ‘treasure house’ in Greek.” It was an instant best seller, and Peter became a popular author. But he never stopped making lists.

Following the text, a timeline of principal events in Peter’s life as well as world events allow readers to better understand the historical period in which Peter worked. Extensive Author’s and Illustrator’ Notes also expand on Roget’s biography, and resources for further reading and research are included.

Jen Bryant’s biography of a brilliant boy who grew up to give the world its most fascinating and comprehensive collection of word lists, is a spritely telling of Roget’s life and revelation into his personality, which was perfectly suited to his scientific and written accomplishments. Children will appreciate Roget’s reactions to his mother’s worries as well as the message in his well-rounded pursuit of science and writing. Through Bryant’s captivating and lyrical storytelling, children will be inspired by Roget’s journey from shy child to much-accomplished adult.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-right-word-roget-at-home

Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2014, courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

Melissa Sweet beguiles readers with her mixed media, collage, and watercolor illustrations that are as jam-packed with ideas, images, portraits, and typography as Roget’s thesaurus is full of words. In the early pages describing Peter’s childhood, the pages contain simple framed pictures of Roget and his family. As he grows, however, his lists of words are transformed into vibrant artwork that jostles for position from corner to corner of the pages. In the midst of these, delicate watercolors portray Peter as he strolls through a garden, takes his young charges to Paris, treats his patients, lectures, marries, and finally publishes his thesaurus. A special mention must be made of the typography, which at times in the text runs down the center of the page in one- or two-word lines, mirroring Roget’s love of lists, and in the illustrations presents the myriad synonyms in a mixture of colorful block letters, fine print, and calligraphy.

For bibliophiles, wordsmiths, scientists, and history buffs, The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus is just the right book for home libraries.

Ages 6 – 18

Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2014 | ISBN 978-0802853851

Discover more about Jen Bryant and her books as well as news, contests, and events, visit her website!

Learn more about Melissa Sweet and her books and have fun with the downloadable activities you’ll find on her website!

Watch this The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus book trailer!

Thesaurus Day Activity

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Word Words Word Search Puzzle

 

When you’re looking for just the right word, where do you go? To the thesaurus of course! Can you find the 25 synonyms for “Word” in this printable Word Words Word Search Puzzle? Here’s the Solution!

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You can find The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

November 27 – Pins And Needles Day

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About the Holiday

It’s not often that a whole holiday is dedicated to a theatrical play. Pins and Needles Day dates back to 1937 and commemorates the Broadway musical of the same name that originally ran from 1937 to 1940. The play was produced by the International Ladies Garment Workers Union and cast sewing machine operators, cutters, and basters who were just looking for a creative outlet in their free time. The play ran for 1,108 performances and was so successful that the cast members were able to quit their jobs to fully partake in the performance schedule. The pro-Labor play saw a revival in 1978 and continues to be staged. This year the musical ran at the Provincetown Playhouse in New York City, featuring NYU students who were near the ages of the original cast members.

Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909

Written by Michelle Markel | Illustrated by Melissa Sweet

 

Among the immigrants sailing to New York stands five-foot-tall Clara Lemlich. She may not know it now, but she’s going to change her new city. While her father can’t find work, Clara gets a job in the garment industry, which hires school-age girls to make women’s clothing. Instead of going to school, Clara spends her days hunched over her sewing machine in a dark, smelly factory with many other girls, making clothes as fast as she can.

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Image copyright Melissa Sweet, courtesy of HarperCollins

The rules of the factory are severe. For minor mistakes workers can be fined or worse—fired, leaving their families without an income. The doors are locked so the girls can’t leave without being inspected to ensure they haven’t stolen anything. And the workers must toil long into the night. Despite it all Clara is determined to get an education even though it means walking to the library after work and missing sleep to read her lessons. 

At the factory the girls become friends and reveal stories and secrets. The working conditions make Clara angry. She hears that the men at the factory want to form a union. If all the workers team up, they can hold a strike and force the management to treat them better the men say. But they don’t think the girls are tough enough.

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Image copyright Melissa Sweet, text copyright Michelle Markel. Courtesy of HarperCollins

Clara knows what the girls are capable of. Every day she talks to her friends and the other women, urging them to fight for their rights—and they do! But it’s not as easy as the men predicted. The bosses don’t want to give in. In fact Clara’s life is in danger! She is beaten and arrested. Despite the intimidation she continues to picket. These small strikes make little difference, however—the bosses just hire new girls and the work continues.

Clara and other union leaders think only a huge strike by all workers in every garment factory in New York will cause the bosses to listen and make changes. At a union meeting workers pack the seats to listen to leaders from across the country. Not one of them recommends such a large strike. Clara can keep silent no more. She moves to the front of the hall and calls out. People lift her to the stage. Shouting “Unity is strength” she rallies the crowd and begins the largest strike of women workers ever in United States history.

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Image copyright Melissa Sweet, text copyright Michelle Markel. Courtesy of HarperCollins

The next morning thousands of women take to the sidewalks, leaving their sewing machines empty and silent. New York is stunned! Newspapers call the strike a “revolt” and the girls an “army.” But this is really an army of children—the girls range in age from only 12 to 25 years old. Clara knows how to lead and motivate the girls. She gives rousing pep talks, sings, and stands up to thugs sent to harass them.

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Image copyright Melissa Sweet, courtesy of HarperCollins

All winter the girls join the men strikers. They are starving and cold and become the inspiration for newspaper articles and fundraising. Many wealthy women donate to their cause and join them on the picket lines. Finally the bosses relent. They agree to the formation of unions in their factories, to raise salaries, and to shorten the work week. Clara’s influence reaches far beyond New York. Factory workers in Philadelphia and Chicago take heart from her work and improve conditions in their cities. 

The final pages include more information about the garment industry in the early 1900s as well as a bibliography.

Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909 is a wonderful addition to any school, classroom, or home library not only for the biographical facts of Clara Lemlich’s life, but also because her story shows readers that no matter how young or small they are they can right wrongs and make a difference.

Michelle Markel’s Brave Girl is a spirited biography of Clara Lemlich, clearly outlining the life and working conditions of immigrants in the early 1900s—especially certain industries’ use of children to fill low-paying, oppressive jobs. This true-life story of a girl who wouldn’t give up or give in is told with pride and balance, touching on the dangers Clara faced in a sensitive manner appropriate for children. Overall, the idea that one person can make a difference no matter how big or how old shines through, making this not only a tale of the past, but an inspiration for today’s children and the future.

Melissa Sweet cleverly combines watercolor and gouache paintings with colorful fabric, ribbon, sewing pattern paper, and ledger pages to create illustrations fitting to the story. The pictures appear sewn onto the pages with straight, zigzag, and embroidery stitches, and the vibrant colors depict the fiery nature of Clara and all the workers who strove for better lives.

Ages 4 – 9 

Balzer + Bray, Harper Collins, 2013 | ISBN 978-0061804427

To find more books by Michelle Markel plus what’s coming next, visit her website!

Discover more books and fun activities for kids as well as resources for educators by Melissa Sweet on her website!

Vote “yes” to watch this Brave Girl book trailer!

Pins and Needles Day Activity

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Sewing Up Fun! Word Search

 

Sewing is a wonderful hobby and a fun way to make unique decorations for your room, accessories for your outfits, or gifts for friends and family. Like any great activity sewing has a vocabulary of its own. Find the 25 sewing-related words in this printable Sewing Up Fun! Word Search. Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review

October 5 – World Teachers Day

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About the Holiday

Teachers are amazing! They dedicate their lives to connecting students to the wider world and opening doors to opportunities for a bright future. Today’s holiday celebrates all the work, thought, and planning that teachers put into every day’s lessons as well as the care and concern they have for every one of their students. Wherever you are, thank your teacher or teachers for everything they do to help you write your own story and ultimately your own ticket—like the sharp heroine of today’s book!

Little Red Writing

Written by Joan Holub | Illustrated by Melissa Sweet

 

One day in pencil school Ms. 2, the teacher, tells her class that they are going to write a story. Her students are excited, and each one has an idea of what to write. The birthday pencil, wearing a bright pink cone-shaped hat, yells “‘Yippee! I want to write a happy story!’” The state pencil, sporting a map of Pencilvania on its eraser end, wants to tell a nonfiction tale about its state, and the basketball pencil with a small replica basketball topper imagines writing a sports story.

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Image copyright Melissa Sweet, text copyright Joan Holub, courtesy of chroniclebooks.com

Little Red, looking sharp in her shiny scarlet coat of paint chooses to “write a story about bravery because red is the color of courage. But what would a brave pencil do?” she wonders. She decides to go in search of unusual characters that will give her a chance to fight evil and save the day. Ms. 2 gives “Little Red a basket of 15 red words to use in case she ran into trouble” and reminds her that “it’s ok to wander a little, but stick to your basic story path so you don’t get lost.”

Little Red takes her basket full of nouns and sets off. In her notebook she begins to describe her journey. “As she walked along…” she writes and then stops. “Walking is boring,” she decides. To discover some action she heads for the gym, where other pencils are twisting, throwing, catching, swinging, and jumping. Little Red bounces and boogies and cartwheels “right off the page into a deep, dark, descriptive forest.”

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Image copyright Melissa Sweet, text copyright Joan Holub, courtesy of chroniclebooks.com

The adjectives lay thick on the gnarled, flowery, shadowy path. The towering trees smell piney and their verdant, russet leaves hide squirrelly creatures. The forest is beautiful, but suddenly Little Red feels “bogged down, hindered, lost!” Remembering her basket, she reaches in and pulls out scissors. They help her “cut through all this description and stick to the story path.” Back on the straight and narrower, Little Red encounters a bottle of “conjunction glue” with just the right kinds of words to help her. She gives the bottle a squeeze, but now finds that her sentences go on and on without saying anything important. All seems lost until “Suddenly” arrives.

“Suddenly,” she hears a throaty roar that begins to chase her. Little Red runs without stopping, throwing out any word she can grab from her basket until she can escape to the next page. Here, however, she discovers a “long, tangly tail” and decides to investigate. The tail winds all along the school corridors, passing the cafeteria, the music room, the art room, and the auditorium. It even meanders by the math room and the after school clubs room into the principal’s office.

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Image copyright Melissa Sweet, text copyright Joan Holub, courtesy of chroniclebooks.com

Little Red knocks on the door. Inside, Principal Granny, her long tail tangled behind her, roars her greetings. Little Red is suspicious, but she continues to explain the growly voice she heard. In fact, she says, “It sounded kind of like yours.” “The betterrr to be hearrrd on the school interrrcom,” the principal states. Little Red also reports the tangly tail, to which the principal answers, “the betterrr to get charrrged up for my school duties when my batteries are rrrunning low. All at once Red notices the principal’s big sharp teeth. “The betterrr to chomp little pencils like you and grrrind them up!”

With that Little Red realizes that this isn’t Principal Granny but the “Wolf 3000: the grumpiest, growliest, grindingest pencil sharpener ever made!” The Wolf 3000 begins to chase Little Red around the office, and just when there seems no hope, in walks Mr. Woodcutter, the janitor—who immediately faints. There is only one thing left to do. Little Red grabs her last word and hurls it at the Wolf 3000. “KABLOOEY” goes the dynamite, reducing the Wolf 3000 to a pile of parts.

Principal Granny emerges from the rubble shortened but okay and declares Little Red a hero. Little Red rushes back to her classroom in time to hear the other pencils’ stories and to share her own brave adventure.

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Image copyright Melissa Sweet, text copyright Joan Holub, courtesy of chroniclebooks.com

Joan Holub’s delightfully clever tribute to writing draws on the Little Red Riding Hood story to get kids excited about using the various parts of speech that make writing so fun and reading so enjoyable. The metaphorical “story path” that Little Red traverses brings her into contact with characters that provide immediate understanding of the concepts. When Little Red squeezes the bottle of conjunction glue, out squirt the words so, but, and, although, yet, and or, which are incorporated into the illustrations on the page. Readers’ familiarity with the original fairy tale increases suspense in this fractured version. The Wolf 3000 electric pencil sharpener makes a perfect nemesis, and the fainting janitor leaves Little Red to sharpen her wits and defeat the beast. Dynamite—at least the word itself—truly is mightier than the sword.

Holub’s nibble talent with puns and wordplay elevates Little Red Writing from simply a book about the subject of grammar and writing to a captivating story kids will love to hear again and again.

Grammar has never looked as enticing as in Melissa Sweet’s vivacious illustrations of adorable Little Red on the story path to prove her bravery. Sweet’s pages, combining pencil drawings, watercolor, and collage, burst with animated typography, scraps of vivid red nouns, and expressive characters in a detailed and fully realized pencil school. Little Red’s final battle with the Wolf 3000 gives full range to Sweet’s rousing visual humor in a highly satisfying climax to the story.

For kids who love reading, writing, and a really good story, Little Red Writing would be a welcome addition to their bookshelves. Teachers will find the story enhances any unit on writing, grammar, and literature.

Ages 5 – 9

Chronicle Books, 2013 | ISBN 978-1452152097

You will find children’s books for all ages as well as fun videos, activities, and teachers’ resources on Joan Holub‘s website!

Discover books, things to make, and lots of fun on Melissa Sweet‘s website!

World Teachers Day Activity

CPB - Pencil Maze

Pencil It In Maze

 

Writing a story is like completing a maze – you must stay on the right path from the beginning to the end to write a satisfying tale. Find your way through intricacies of this printable Pencil It In Maze

Picture Book Review