Thursday, January 2, 2014

Book review: The Very Inappropriate Word by Jim Tobin, Dave Coverly (Illustrations)

The Very Inappropriate Word by Jim Tobin, Dave Coverly (Illustrations)
Hardcover, 36 pages
Published August 20th 2013 by Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)

Michael loves interesting words (hard words like ELASTIC, little words like VAST, and big words like SMITHEREENS) and is always on the lookout for words to collect. Then one day, he picks up a new word. Abad word. An inappropriate word. At least, that’s what his friend says. But Michael kind of likes the word. He thinks he might try it out.

At school.

Bad idea.

"Michael collected words." From that opening sentence I knew I would really like The Very Inappropriate Word by Jim Tobin, with illustrations by Dave Coverly. Any kid who likes words, just like I did as a youngster, is cool. Michael picks up words from his various surroundings and Dave Coverly's colorful imaginings certainly brings this boy's world to life. The illustrations look like watercolors with black ink outlines which immediately reminded me of comic books, but this book is more. Words take on superstar status and Michael is the quiet, geeky hero. The words Michael picks up are conveyed in comic-book like bursts with each one taking on a descriptive image (for example the word 'scram' has running legs). 

My son picked up on so much of the illustrations and spent time soaking in everything on the pages. He really took to learning about the words Michael found around him, pronouncing them out loud so this is a very effective tool in helping reluctant readers embrace words and practicing their pronunciation. My son also has a speech impediment. As his condition improves, I still look out for books like this one which attracts kids to reading out loud and not hesitating to ask questions. 

When Michael picks up the wrong type of word, things get very interesting. He uses this word around other kids and soon the teacher is wondering where everyone heard it. When she inquires and hears Michael's name, he is told he has to stay after school. Yet his punishment is not to sit in a room and stare at a clock as a typical detention usually has students do. His teacher, Mrs. Dixon, has something else for this inquisitive boy to do and it, of course, involves words. 

Curiosity, word of mouth, a passion for something, the difference between what is appropriate and what is not, are all conveyed in this charming picture book. Words take on the role of a main character and for wordsmiths wanting to pass along or convey the magic of words to their kids, they will delight in reading The Very Inappropriate Word to them. With Coverly's vivid imagery (his illustrations are numerous and outstanding) and Tobin's writing, this book should find a home in both libraries and personal collections. I loved it and my son really liked it. I would recommend this picture book to older readers and hope it becomes an interactive book or has its own app--it would be perfect for kids to learn with.

Rating: 5

Cover comment:
Appropriate and humorous.

Book source:
I received a promotional copy in exchange for my honest review. Thanks to Henry Holt and Company Books for Young Readers.

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