*The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus by Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet

*The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus by Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet. Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2014. 42 pages.roget

Reading Level: Picture Books, ages 4-8, 8-12
Maturity Level: 2 (ages 4-8) and up

The use of language is not confined to its being the medium through which we communicate our ideas to one another; … [it functions] as an instrument of thought; not being merely its vehicle, but giving it wings for flight. ~Peter Mark Roget

This picture book biography of the famous thesaurus author is another remarkable collaboration by award-winning team Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet. It is hard to tell where Bryant’s text ends and Sweet’s collage-style illustrations begin, so perfectly do they complement one another. Bryant tells Roget’s story, walking us alongside him from birth until he published his famous thesaurus near the end of his life. Sweet uses words, lists, and details from the first edition of Roget’s Thesaurus in her illustrations. Back matter includes extensive author’s and illustrator’s notes, a timeline, a bibliography, and a list for further reading. The text does not mention Roget’s spiritual leanings, but he has done a remarkable service to all those who communicate with words in his encouragement to be precise. It is hard not to make the connection between the power of language with the very Word of God, made incarnate in the person of Christ.

UPDATE: The Right Word is a 2015 Caldecott Honor book and winner of the Sibert Medal, awarded by the American Library Association for excellence in nonfiction for children.  Also, the National Council of Teachers of English selected it as a runner-up for the 2015 Orbis Pictus award for nonfiction.

Cautions: none

Overall Value: 5 (out of 5)

  • Worldview/moral value: 5
  • Literary value: 5

Discussion Points:

  • Artistic Value: How does the illustrator make Roget’s work “come alive”?
  • Worldview Value: Read John 1-2, Timothy 2:15, and Hebrews 4:12, and ask your children about the importance of precision in language as a reflection of the work of Christ.

Categories: Auto/Biography, Picture Books, Education (Curriculum Tie-In and Enrichment), Language Arts, Starred Review,  Award Winners

Cover image from amazon
*indicates starred review

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Betsy is the Managing Editor at Redeemed Reader. When she reads ahead for you, she uses sticky notes instead of book darts and willfully dog ears pages even in library books. Betsy is a fan of George MacDonald, robust book discussions, and the Oxford comma. She lives with her husband and their three children in the beautiful Northwest.

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