Reviews /

Britannica’s Word of the Day

Authored by Patrick Kelly, Renee Kelly and Sue Macy
Illustrated by Josy Bloggs, Emily Cox, James Gibbs and Liz Cox
Published by What On Earth Books

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Please bear with me. The thought of reviewing a book entitled Word of the Day did not exactly set me alive with excitement. Over the past eight to ten years there has been all kinds of talk about words. There’s been talk of word gaps and how to fill them. There’s been new and old writing shared and re-shared on the importance of developing vocabulary. You’ll get no argument from me on that central point. Vocabulary is hugely important. That said, educational resources have sometimes led me to think that the pursuit of words, words and more words is not necessarily as helpful as it might be. Too often we might see words handled in isolation or in fairly random groupings. Sometimes we might see too many words, or too difficult a group of words. It’s fair to say that I’m more of a contextualised language kind of person.

It’s fair to say then that I approached this book with some trepidation. I needn’t have. A clever structure and very appealing design elevate Britannica’s Word of the Day in ways that surprised me. So much so that I have since purchased copies for friends and colleagues.

The cover promises ‘366 Elevating Utterances to Stretch Your Cranium and Tickle Your Humerus‘. Now the more cynical amongst you might be preparing to move on, wary of the kinds of overstuffed sentences we can sometimes find in our children’s writing when they have got a bit too trigger happy with a purple polishing pen. Worry not. This is a cleverly designed, cleverly organised book that celebrates language in welcome ways. Each word comes with its own definition, a pronunciation guide and a ‘quirky’ fact. Illustrations, brightly coloured groupings, and monthly stories help to put the words into context, as well as foster links, and shine a spotlight on why they are well worth taking the time to get acquainted with.

To my eyes, it’s the various graphic elements that truly elevate this and make it a browse-worthy addition to your primary school library. The endpapers, typography, illustrations, colours and composition combine to make this a feast for the eye as much as the mind. And any book that devotes a Words When You Need Them spread made up of ‘Doohdah’, ‘Whatsit’, ‘Gizmo’ and ‘Thingamajig’ is clearly in tune with the joys of language in the widest sense of its words.