Storyteller’s Illustrated Dictionary

Ages: 6 - 13Publisher: Mrs Wordsmith Ltd Author: Tatiana Barnes, Mark Holland, Sofia FenichellIllustrator: Craig Kellman


How can you not love a kid’s illustrated dictionary with a sense of humor? On the inside cover of this wonderfully quirky, lively, instructive reference book are laugh-out-loud quotes from anonymous kids who supposedly benefitted from the book, such as: “I learned words so quickly that my parents are afraid of me!”

That may not be hyperbole. Storyteller’s Illustrated Dictionary doesn’t limit itself to simply defining words for young students. Instead, it defines words within its overarching context of how upstart storytellers can effectively tell stories. At a time when kids’ wobbly writing skills are further debased by ungrammatical, misspelled, social-media vernacular, this book is a welcome antidote.

It contains 4,000 defined words categorized, not alphabetically, but rather into six storytelling themes—Character, Settings, Taste and Smell, Action, Emotion and Weather. All that’s shuffled with 1,300 illustrations by the artist behind the animated feature films Madagascar and Hotel Transylvania, plus dissected into 127 storytelling topics, ranging from romance and war to sports and technology.

Based on a statistical analysis of words in children’s books, page after page is designed to not only entertainingly build children’s vocabulary and help them become effective storytellers. Unlike standard text-gray dictionary pages, these burst with energy and color, focusing topical definitions with their storytelling applications, from Word Pairs (two words that, statistically, are likely to be combined) to Clever Character Nouns (categories such as Monsters, Sci-Fi and Clothing). And they’re all indexed at the back.

But what’s most remarkable about his dictionary is that anyone—parent, grandparent or child—can open to any page and immediately be captivated. Though pricey, it is an impressive dictionary unlike any you probably have seen.

Don Oldenburg ©2019 Parents’ Choice

A former feature writer and consumer columnist at The Washington Post for 22 years, Don Oldenburg is the Director of Publications and Editor of the National Italian American Foundation, in Washington, D.C. He regularly reviews books for USA Today and is the coauthor of “The Washington DC-Baltimore Dog Lovers Companion” (Avalon Travel). The proud father of three sons, he lives with his journalist-author wife, Ann Oldenburg, in McLean, VA.


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