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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

13 Words in One Word: Entertaining

So often I expound on such serious matters for picture books: the Holocaust, scientific inquiry, and war. It's nice once in a while to pick up a picture book that's just fun to read, and Lemony Snicket's 13 Words is such a book. 13 Words couples simple words (Bird) with complex (Despondent), and common words (Dog) with uncommon (Panache).

Just last night my seven year-old daughter asked if we could read a book together. From stacks of dozens of picture books on our dining room table, Mackenzie selected this one to read (I think the striking school-bus-yellow cover had much to do with that).

As we began to turn pages, she decided that some were mine to read while others were hers. The page featuring the word Despondent was hers. Dad the teacher, never one to miss ruining the moment, stopped her to ask, "What does despondent mean?"

Mackenzie dutifully replied, "It means very unhappy," and explained why, using the pictures and context sentences to prove her hypothesis. (By the way, there is no difference between hypothesis and absolute-certain-truth in the mind of a seven year-old).

As we continued through the book, often stopping to discuss Maira Kalman's surreal illustrations, we came across the word Panache. Learning its meaning (from the book, mind you, not from Dad), my daughter called to my wife, "Hey, Mom! You have panache!"

Enter Mom. Good thing, too, because we needed some help with Word Number 13: Mezzo-Soprano. My wife offered, "I think that's a soprano that sings really high. Casey would know."

Enter the thirteen year-old, the musical theatre aficionado. Thirteen year-olds know everything, so it was extremely fortuitous that she was available to confirm my wife's conjecture. And with the whole family now gathered, we finished the book.

The book in one word? Crazy (Mackenzie). In two? Pretty Neat (Mom). In three? Kind of Weird (Casey). In four? Completely unique, absolutely original (me).

And that's that. As promised, I won't discuss the book's potential for creative story prompts, vocabulary development, or writing models. I could, and should, but I won't.

Sometimes books can just be fun!


Books That Heal Kids said...

Thirteen Words

Kelly Massman said...

I sent you an email! Thanks! I'm a new follower!

Keith Schoch said...

Thanks for following, Kelly! I see your smiling face in my followers group!

You, too, have an awesome blog. I'll recommend it to the folks in my family who scrapbook!

Susan said...

This book sounds totally fun. Even though it's a picture book, I think my 9-year-old word lover would eat it up.

Glad to have found you via the Hop!

Shannon@BooksDevoured said...

Thanks for following, I am following you back. Also, I am a home schooling mom and we are always on the lookout for new children's books. I am glad to have found you and can not wait to see what new books we find through your site.

Keith Schoch said...

Hey, Shannon. You're in good company here; quite a few homeschoolers are regular readers!

Ironically, although I'm a teacher, many of my relatives are homeschoolers as well!

Let me know what topics you're looking for!

The Book Chook said...

I really like Maira Kalman's art work and her blog at NYTimes. The book sounds excellent and my mind is racing with prompt ideas and word play fun.

Ruth Horowitz said...

Love this book, love this review, but you need to tell your wife (and your daughter), a mezzo soprano's range is low for a soprano, not high.

Keith Schoch said...

Thnaks for clarifying that! But tell my wife and daughter that they're wrong? Ruth, Ruth, Ruth... How could I possibly begin to explain the numerous reasons why this could never, ever happen?