Friday, November 9, 2012

Noah Webster & His Words

by Jeri Chase Ferris
illustrated by Vincent X. Kirsch
Houghton Mifflin | 2012

This nonfiction biography picture book about Noah Webster and the creation of the first dictionary is fantastic! Full of great facts and the story of how Webster became the father of the American dictionary, it is written clearly with excellent definitions of fourteen words built right into the story.

From the first page:

"Noah Webster always knew he was right, and he never got tired of saying so (even if sometimes, he wasn't). He was, he said, full of CON-FI-DENCE" [noun: belief that one is right] from the very beginning."

The whimsical drawings bring the story even more to life, and the prodigious use of squiggles in the art bring a "handwritten" quality to all the illustrations. One awesome detail in the illustrations stands out. On a page about how Webster sailed to Europe to use the libraries in there to finish his dictionary, the illustration is of a boat on the ocean. The ocean waves are made of words, all having to do with ships. I only know that because I looked them up! Taffrail, gaff, moonraker, stunsail, tilller, halyard, and more are spread across that ocean and it's a lovely detail!

The book includes a detailed timeline that interweaves Noah Webster's life with important American dates; after all, he was born in 1758 and died in 1843 and during his lifetime, the United States was born. He is buried in New Haven in Grove Street Cemetery next to Yale. The book also includes a longer note about Noah Webster and a bibliography that includes websites.

Biographies are not boring! And this one proves it yet again.

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