Texas Bluebonnet Award 2015-2016

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The Right Word



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

TheRightWord_Bryant_Jen     TheRightWord_Sweet, Melissa - cropped

     Scroll down to find Related Activities & Resources, Book Talk Teasers, Read Alikes, and Book Reviews.

 Readers Theater Script

Book Trailer

Author Interview

Illustrator Interview


Discussion Guide

Author and Illustrator Information:
An interview with Jen Bryant:

Random House interview with Jen Bryant:

Tart interviews Jen Bryant:

Jen Bryant on Facebook:

Jen Bryant’s Blog:

Eerdmans interview of Jen Bryant:

Kid’s Read interview of Jen Bryant:

Book Joy interview with Jen Bryant:

Melissa Sweet Facebook:

Author Illustrator Melissa Sweet:

About Melissa Sweet:

Work and Play with Melissa Sweet:

Eerdman’s interview of Melissa Sweet:

Horn Book asks Melissa Sweet 5 questions:

Illustrator Melissa Sweet on learning her subjects:

Word Games:
Thesaurus Drill:
Have a thesaurus drill.  This works best if everyone has the same version of thesaurus.  This can be done as a whole class or in heats.  Everyone stands in a line with their thesaurus at their side.  Say salute and everyone puts their thesaurus up in front of them.  Announce the word they are to look up. Say go.  As each person finds the word they are to take one step forward.  After everyone has stepped forward the first person to step forward reads the correct page number.  You can ask for them to find the word, page number, number of synonyms, etc. Give a certificate for the winner. After several heats the winner could win a paperback thesaurus.  Always let everyone take a step forward.  That way no one gives up and everyone eventually finds the answer.

Game templates for Million Dollar Pyramid Jeopardy, Hollywood Squares, Who Wants to be a Millionaire, Bingo, Wheel of Fortune, and Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader:

Thesaurus Feud:
This is played the same as Family Feud.  Divide into teams.  Have the first person on each team go to the front and stand on each side of a table with two bells/buzzers on it.  The teacher names a category/word.  The first person to respond with a word in the category may decide to play or have their team pass to the other team.  Each person on the playing team must give a synonym for the word given.  As each team member answers correctly the play moves down the line. For example: if the category/word is large the answers may be huge, big gigantic, enormous, monstrous, etc. The teacher will decide if she is looking for 6 answers or 10, etc.  This depends on the word. Once there are 3 missed answers the opposing team will have the opportunity to steal the points by coming up with a word from the category.  The opposing team will huddle and try as a group to come up with the word. If they succeed they will get the points you have decided upon.  If they miss the original team will get the points. You can get the words and categories from a thesaurus.  At the end of play read all the possibilities that were listed in the thesaurus.

Wheel of Fortune:
Make a spinning wheel with $ amounts just like on Wheel of Fortune.  Include lose a turn, bankrupt, etc.  On a whiteboard draw the blanks for each letter of the words.  Play just like Wheel of Fortune.  The answers will not be phrases, titles like on the game show.  Instead all the words they will be solving are synonyms found in the thesaurus for a specific word.  After the 3 or more words are solved from a round they will get a bonus if they can name the category.  Example words that mean a large size.They will not win money.  You need to figure out the prize.

Rewrite book titles:
Rewrite popular book titles from the library using a thesaurus so the meaning is the same. Have students guess the correct title.  Students may use the dictionary and thesaurus for help if necessary.

Have students rewrite books titles and have other students guess their titles. Students may use the dictionary and thesaurus for help if necessary.

How many words:
Have a contest to see how many similar words students can come up with for a specific word.  Can be done individually or in groups.

My Own Thesaurus:
Make your own thesaurus from words you use everyday to help you write letter.  For example: a list of words you could use instead of talk or walk.

Discussion Questions:

Are you a list maker?  What are the pros and cons of being a list maker?

Roget made lists of words.  Why do you think this was important to him?

Do you prefer to find the perfect word for your meaning when you write or speak, or will any word that is close to your meaning be okay with you?  Explain.

Roget trained to be a doctor but could not work as one because of his age.  How would you feel if you were trained and had the qualifications to do the job of your dreams and then realized no one took you seriously because of your age? What would you do?



Read the titles of some books like Hop on Pop  or One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish to the class having rewritten the titles from words found in a thesaurus.  

Perform the readers theater.


Genres ‘Picture books for children’ and ‘Picture Books’ and the subject ‘English language’:
Agee, Jon. Orangutan tongs. Have you ever gotten tripped up trying to say a silly succession of similar syllables? Try out these hilarious tongue twisters for lots of fun!. (NoveList)

Alda, Arlene. Did you say pears?. A playful look at words that sound the same but have different meanings puts together images and words to challenge the reader to look and look again to recognize the wordplay. (NoveList)

Cleary, Brian P. A bat cannot bat, a stair cannot stare. Discusses the differences between homonyms and homophones and provides examples of each. (NoveList)

Ferris, Jeri. Noah Webster and his words. A portrait of the man who wrote the first U.S. dictionary traces his youth as a bookish Connecticut farm boy and his twenty-year effort to write the all-American dictionary that was published in 1828 when he was seventy years old. (NoveList)

Loewen, Nancy. If you were a preposition. Describes what prepositions are and provides examples of them used in different sentences. (NoveList)

Lyons, Shelly. If you were an apostrophe.  Presents the many things that readers could do if they were apostrophes, like show possession, appear in a contraction, and make letters plural. (NoveList)

Shaskan, Trisha Speed. If you were a contraction. Describes what contractions are and provides examples of them used in different words. (NoveList)

Shea, Pegi Deitz. Noah Webster: weaver of words. Presents the life and accomplishments of the American lexicographer, who wrote the first American dictionary, published the first daily newspaper, created the first American insurance company, and was responsible for the first copyright law. (NoveList)

Spooner, Joe. N is for nostril…and other alphabet silliness. Presents the alphabet with objects representative of each letter, describing them with humorous methods. (NoveList)

Terban, Marvin. In a pickle, and other funny idioms. Thirty common English phrases, such as “a chip off the old block” and “cry over spilled milk” are illustrated and explained. (NoveList)

Terban, Marvin. Guppies in tuxedos: funny eponyms. Traces the origins of more than 100 eponymous words–words derived from the names of people or places. For example “sandwich” is an eponymous word from the eponym, Earl of Sandwich, the man who invented sandwiches. (NoveList)

Genres ‘Biography, Autobiography, and Memoir’ and ‘Picture books for children’ and the subject ‘Poets, American’:
Herrera, Juan Felipe. Calling the doves: = el canto de las palomas. The author recalls his childhood in the mountains and valleys of California with his farm worker parents who inspired him with poetry and song. (NoveList)

Zarin, Cynthia. Albert, the dog who liked to ride in taxis. Albert the dachsund loves nothing better than riding in taxicabs, until the day a taxicab adventure takes him to the airport. (NoveList)

Genres ‘Biography, Autobiography, and Memoir’ and ‘Picture books for children’ and the subject ‘Physicians’:
Manson, Ainslie. Roll on: Rick Hansen wheels around the world. The story of Rick Hansen’s Man in Motion world tour and some of the children he inspired. (NoveList)

Lyrical, and they share: the genres ‘Biography, Autobiography, and Memoir’ and ‘Picture books for children’ and the subjects ‘Poets, American’ and ‘Girls’:
Hall, Donald. Ox-cart man. Describes the day-to-day life throughout the changing seasons of an early 19th-century New England family. (NoveList)

Genres ‘Arts and Entertainment’ and ‘Biography, Autobiography, and Memoir’ and the subject ‘Creativity in men’:
Warhola, James. Uncle Andy’s. The author describes a trip to see his uncle, the soon-to-be-famous artist Andy Warhol, and the fun that he and his family had on the visit. (NoveList)

Genres ‘Arts and Entertainment’ and ‘Biography, Autobiography, and Memoir’ and the subject ‘Poets, American’:
Osofsky, Audrey. Free to dream: the making of a poet : Langston Hughes. A biography of the Harlem poet whose works gave voice to the joy and pain of the black experience in America. (NoveList)

Genre: Arts and Entertainment; Language arts:
Ringstad, Arnold. The unbelievable origins of snake oil and other idioms. Explains the meaning and origins of different idioms, including “bats in the belfry,” “wait for the other shoe to drop,” and “don’t have a cow.” (NoveList)



The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus. Bryant, Jen (author).  Illustrated by Melissa Sweet.  Sept. 2014. 42p. Eerdmans, hardcover, $17.50 (9780802853851). K-Grade 3. 409.2. 

REVIEW.  First published August, 2014 (Booklist).

Bryant’s and Sweet’s talents combine to make the lowly thesaurus fascinating in this beautifully illustrated picture-book biography of Peter Mark Roget. Born in the late eighteenth century, shy Roget was prone to wandering alone and began keeping lists of words at a young age. Even as he went to medical school and became a talented and respected physician, he still kept his book of word lists, gradually improving on the concept until he published his first thesaurus, classified thematically rather than alphabetically as it is today, in 1852. Echoing Roget’s obsession with words, Sweet’s intricate and elaborate collage illustrations—made out of textbooks, graph paper, maps, fabric, typewriter keys, and other found objects—put words on center stage. Lists in wildly expressive handwritten fonts along with cut-paper assemblages stuff the dynamic pages, even the appended time line and endpapers, with arresting detail. Pivotal moments in Roget’s life get a similar treatment: terms related to plants bloom in tendrils around a watercolor illustration of Roget on one of his many walks. In brilliant pages teeming with enthusiasm for language and learning, Bryant and Sweet (A Splash of Red, 2013) joyfully celebrate curiosity, the love of knowledge, and the power of words.— Sarah Hunter

Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books:
Bryant, Jen. The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus. Illustrated by Melissa Sweet. November 2014

ISBN 978-0-8028-5385-1

Most kids will encounter a thesaurus at sometime in their education, and Bryant encourages a sense of wonder about the kind of guy who would dream up such a tome. A shy nature and early childhood domestic instability seem to have pushed young Peter Roget toward angling for control in his life, which manifested in a penchant for list-making. By the age of twenty-six in 1805, the polymath had already cranked out a debut version of what would become his namesake work, but ordering all the ideas ever conceived was still a sideline activity, pursued in moments when he wasn’t working as a physician or dabbling as a naturalist. Enjoying an unusually long lifespan, he was able to buckle down late in life to create his famed thesaurus (which, Bryant notes in an afterword, was organized thematically rather than alphabetically). Bryant presents a compassionate view of Roget’s psyche, highlighting eccentricity rather than borderline lunacy, but implying nonetheless that it takes unusual, if not abnormal, audacity and drive to embark on such a venture. Sweet has a positive field day mining Roget’s notebooks and his 1852 first edition Thesaurus for typefaces and design elements to incorporate into her drawings and collages, with myriad visual temptations luring viewers into a fine browsing experience, and introducing them to the organization of words by idea that Roget employed. Brief bibliographies, quotation sources, a timeline, and notes from Bryant and Sweet are included.

Horn Book:
[STARRED] The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus
by Jen Bryant; illus. by Melissa Sweet
Primary     Eerdmans     48 pp.
9/14     978-0-8028-5385-1     $17.50

Apt language and ingenious imagery combine to tell the life story of Peter Mark Roget, creator of the  thesaurus. A solitary, though not unhappy, child, Roget spends his time keeping lists and ordering the natural and cultural wonders he finds in abundance. He studies to become a doctor, teaches, joins academic societies, raises a family, and continues to capture and classify the universe, eventually publishing his Thesaurus, a catalog of concepts ordered by ideas, in 1852. Bryant’s linear telling follows Peter closely, expressing his curiosity, sensitivity, and populist spirit in language that is both decorous  and warm. Clever book design and visionary illustration add layers of meaning, as images come together in careful sequence. On the cover a cacophony of iconographic ideas explodes from the pages of a book. The opening endpapers arrange these same concepts in a vertical collage that recalls spines on a bookshelf. The title spread features the letters of the alphabet as stacked blocks, as a child manages them, and from there the pages grow in complexity, as Roget himself grows up. Sweet embellishes her own gentle watercolors with all manner of clippings and realia, corralling the pictures into order  according to concept, number, or color. A timeline and detailed author and illustrator notes follow the narrative, with suggested additional resources and a facsimile page of Roget’s first, handwritten book
of lists. And the closing endpapers, with the comprehensive classification scheme of the first thesaurus, fully realize the opening organizational promise. THOM BARTHELMESS
(November/December 2014 Horn Book Magazine)

Reprinted from The Horn Book Magazine by permission of The Horn Book, Inc., www.hbook.com

School Library Journal:
★Bryant, Jen. The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus. illus. by Melissa Sweet. 42p. bibliog. chron. further reading. Eerdmans. 2014. Tr $17.50. ISBN 9780802853851.

Gr 2-5–Those who have relied upon a thesaurus (meaning treasure house in Greek), either in print or through the tool menu of word processing software, will gain a greater appreciation for the reference tool in this beautifully designed picture book biography of its creator, Peter Roget. Bryant describes bibliophile Roget, taking him from a timid, studious child who was always compiling lists to an accomplished doctor who by 1805 had compiled the beginnings of the first thesaurus. Busy and exuberant, Sweet’s charming watercolor illustrations, layered over collages of vintage images and fonts, capture Roget’s passion for classification while also providing readers new opportunities for discovery (Latin translations of animal names, mathematical terms, and a plethora of synonyms). Expertly researched and well written, Bryant’s narrative not only details the creation of the thesaurus; it also conveys a sense of Roget the man: his shy nature, his keen intelligence, and his passion for knowledge. There truly was a particular blend of artistry and intellect that went into Roget’s book, as evidenced from a reproduced page from the original thesaurus. The book contains extensive back matter, including an incredibly detailed time line that goes into the man’s other inventions (the slide rule, the pocket chess set) and an author and illustrator’s note, as well as Roget quotations that are sure to inspire if not a love of language then at least a search for the perfect turn of phrase. An excellent illustrated biography.–Joanna K. Fabicon, Los Angeles Public Library


One thought on “The Right Word

  1. Pingback: EBYR All Over: March 6, 2015 | Eerdlings

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