TITLE: Noah Webster and His Words
AUTHOR: Jeri Chase Ferris
ILLUSTRATOR: Vincent X. Kirsch
PUBLICATION INFO: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
INTENDED AUDIENCE: ages 4 through 8
GENRE: nonfiction (biography)
OPENING and SYNOPSIS:
“Noah Webster always knew he was right, and he never got tired of saying so (even if, sometimes, he wasn’t). He was, he said, “full of CON-FI-DENCE” [noun: belief that one is right] from the very beginning.”
From the publisher’s Web site:
“Webster’s American Dictionary is the second most popular book ever printed in English. But who was that Webster? Noah Webster (1758–1843) was a bookish Connecticut farm boy who became obsessed with uniting America through language. He spent twenty years writing two thousand pages to accomplish that, and the first 100 percent American dictionary was published in 1828 when he was seventy years old. This clever, hilariously illustrated account shines a light on early American history and the life of a man who could not rest until he’d achieved his dream. An illustrated chronology of Webster’s life makes this a picture perfect bi-og-ra-phy [noun: a written history of a person’s life]”
THEMES/TOPICS: biography, arts
WHY I LIKE THIS BOOK: This book has won every award under the sun. The form perfectly matches the subject: Ferris sprinkles definitions throughout the text, intermingling Webster’s life’s work with his life story. Ferris also makes Webster accessible to children and parents today. His nose is always in a book (I know someone like that!). His dad takes out a loan to send him to Yale (I think most parents could relate). Noah made little money on his early books, but the printers made a bundle. Ferris’s book is filled with humor for everyone. And Kirsch’s “big head” line drawings of Webster add to the amusement.
- Ferris, an expert biographer, has rich backmatter in her book that could be used for lessons.
- Her site has a downloadable teachers’ guide.
- Here’s a lesson plan from Read Write Think for grades 3 through 12. It includes a fun “Balderdash”-type dictionary game.
- Speaking of Balderdash, why not play that game, Scrabble, or another word game?
- Thanks to The Picture Book Review for this suggestion: test your vocabulary skills at FreeRice.com, which donates to the World Food Programme for each correct answer.
Every Friday bloggers review “Perfect Picture Books.” Find a complete list of book reviews organized by topic, genre and blogger at author Susanna Leonard Hill’s site.