The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus: Jen Bryant & Melissa Sweet
October 20, 2014
Book: The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus
Author: Jen Bryant
Illustrator: Melissa Sweet
Age Range: 7 and up
The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus is a picture book biography written by Jen Bryant and illustrated by Melissa Sweet. The publisher lists it for ages 7 and up, which seems about right to me. It's quite dense, and full of lists and historical tidbits that make it likely over the heads of younger readers. But for elementary age kids, and adults for that matter, particularly those who appreciate words and lists, The Right Word is simply a delight.
This book made me smile, and it made me want to go out and get an old copy of Roget's thesaurus, from back before it was even arranged alphabetically. It enabled me to picture the young Peter Roget, a lonely, bright boy who always loved lists. The Right Word made me feel like I knew him. And that is a successful biography.
The Right Word describes Peter's life, from early childhood through his publication, late in life, of his Thesaurus. There is a mix of narrative text, poems, and information conveyed through the illustrations (including comic strip-like panels). And, always, throughout the book, there are lists of words. Afterwords by the author and illustrator explain where the included information (especially the illustrations) came from. There is a timeline that mingles events from Peter's life with world events of the same time periods (separating the types of events by color).
Somehow, this mix of Bryant's text and Sweet's annotated collage illustrations evokes emotion in the reader. One feels for Peter, and rejoices in his eventual success. Or I did, at least. Like this:
"When Peter moved back to London,
he joined science societies and
attended lectures given by famous
thinkers and inventors. Before long,
he was asked to give lectures too.
But could he do it? Could shy
Peter Roget face a crowded room
and talk about what he knew?
Yes, he could.
With his book in hand, Peter spoke concisely,
with clarity and conviction!"
Sweet's illustration of this second page shows Peter standing, proud without being vain, in front of a group of black-robed men who are whispering about him. There's a mix of old-fashioned setting with cartoon-like faces keeps the book accessible to young readers.
Even the cover of The Right Word is appealing, with a worn book cover showing at the bottom of the page, looking like soft leather, and a host of images from various fields of study and periods of time spilling out from between the pages at the top. The Right Word celebrates that power of words, and the lasting contribution of the man who created Roget's Thesaurus, still in print today. It is a wonderful picture book biography and a must- purchase for libraries and word-lovers everywhere.
Publisher: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: September 15, 2014
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon and iBooks affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).