The Great Dictionary Caper by Judy Sierra & illustrated by Eric Comstock

Screenshot 2019-01-21 20.16.57.pngNoah Webster is back in the spotlight in this brightly colored picture book intended for older elementary students. The story is simple and loose.  Words were bored in the dictionary and decided to bunk off for a bit. On each spread (and sometimes each page) a particular type of word is showcased in multiples along with their label – synonyms, palindromes, action verbs and so on. Each word is given its own personality, usually suggestive of its meaning, through the use of cleverly added eyes, noses, and expressions.

screen shot 2019-01-21 at 8.38.01 pmTwo things stand out for me here. First, the art work is compelling. Though there is a limited (albeit BRIGHT) palette and simple line art throughout, the illustrations are not simplistic. Instead the book sets a very appropriate, fun-loving and zealous mood. Second, how brilliant is it that this book handles a subject that is usually so BORING? Who cares to memorize the definition of a conjunction? Instead, we are allowed to move on from telling children what words are to visually showing them what they are. When that happens, students get incredible insight along with a fun book to read.

This is a great book for about grades 2 and up. It might be difficult to do as a read aloud because the images of the words as a whole need to be seen to fully appreciate the meaning. Consider using a camera and projection device if you go that route. This would pair nicely with a low prep activity where students came up with their own escapee words to illustrate.

Lastly, I want to thank the Phoenix Public Library and the librarians there who keep up to date on new releases. I actually borrowed this book from my own library from over 8000miles away!  Thank you Phoenix Public eLibrary! I plan to put “The Great Dictionary Caper” on my “every library should have” list and I highly recommend its purchase for k-12 libraries.




In another installment of Kuhlmann’s Mouse series, our hero searches for what happened to his distant grandfather mouse – the apparent inventor of the light bulb. As ever, the art work is the standout. Detailed diagarams are interspersed with rich coloured paintings. The story itself has some jumps and starts. There is a kind of disconnect between the length of the text, its simplicity, and its willingness to skip over needed connections. With long stretches of text written in very simple terms, it is hard to define who would be reading this – a child themselves or parent to child – and even harder to know whether they would be confused or disappointed by the story arcs fit and starts. Let’s be clear, this book is purchased for the art. And for that alone it is worthy of a place in your library. But the book could be so much more with a revision that kept the target audience in mind. The book ends with some interesting discussion of who actually invented the Edison screw bulb and includes thoughtfully illustrated historical notes. Available October 2018 from Amazon here.