Logo Title Quebec Reading Connection

The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus

Bryant, Jen (Author)
Sweet, Melissa (Illustrator)
Eerdmans 2014. 40 pages
First published: 2014
ISBN: 9780802853851 (hardcover)
Original language: English
Book type: Non-Fiction
Book genre: Biography

Text Elements:

character, language conventions, layout, multimodal, structures and features

Awards

Caldecott Honor Book – 2015
Robert F. Sibert Medal – 2015
Golden Kite Award – 2015

Reading Range

 
Cycle
Elementary
Secondary
 
1
2
3
1
2
ELA
K
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL Intensive & Enriched
5
6
1
2
3
4
5

Description:

This intelligent and artistic picture book biography speaks to readers of almost any age. Poetic language describes Peter Roget’s eventful life from boyhood, through a distinguished career as doctor and scientist, to the publication of his life-long passion and invention: the thesaurus.

The text is full of brilliant flourishes, such as the word list of Roget’s life: “1779 BORN, beginning, baby, infant, tadpole … teen, scholar … manhood … to wind up … close DIED 1869.” The value of Roget’s word lists—and their organization—is made clear through storytelling: “If only all the ideas in the world could be found in one place.”

Stunning and playful illustrations convey story and complex ideas with comic-style layouts, intricate still-life images and illustrative type treatments. Every page is a visual barrage—and a feast.

In the end, a quaint village scene shows Roget at home among his words; outside, townsfolk bustle and converse, a thesaurus in every pocket: “My fish is cheap, a bargain, reasonable;” “Your frock is a lovely shade of azure, violet, sapphire.”

Altogether, this book offers a breathtaking tribute to the unique intelligence of Peter Mark Roget. It’s a gem (“jewel,” “the acme of perfection”).

  •  

    Examine a thesaurus. Compare the structures and features with those of a dictionary. When might a thesaurus be useful?

  •  

    Do a picture walk. Notice the use of words, word lists and artifacts in the illustrations. Speculate on how the details in the illustrations can support the text.

  •  Reflect on how Roget used lists in different contexts. Think of a useful application for lists in your life. Start one or more personal lists.
  •  

    Examine the endpapers. Explain their relevance to the story using specific examples.

  •  This example of a multimodal text includes elements that are textual (font, colour, narrative structure) and paratextual (covers, endpapers, front matter). The text also includes elements of graphic texts (inset panels, splash page, transitions between panels) and written narrative.
  •  In pairs, discuss ways of approaching this text. Where should a reader start?
  •  This text can be one of several when exploring biography as a genre, specifically the way authors/producers use a variety of text elements to construct meaning. Along with the bibliography, the author and illustrator notes offer additional information and serve as a point of departure for further research.
  •  

    Before reading, discuss why people make lists. Compose a list of different types of lists (grocery, party guests, to-do, etc.).

  •  

    Do a picture walk. Explore pictures, fonts and associated lists.

  •  

    Choose a category (colours, hand gestures, school tools) and, like Roget, create a list with a partner. Create a visual for your list in line with the illustrator’s style.

  •  Explore a thesaurus and learn about its use.
  •  What are the “right words” for different situations? What words would you use when someone is sick, afraid, happy, worried, tired, sad, etc.?
  •  

    Create a giant alpha box and add the new words you encounter as the book is read aloud. Choose ten of those words and write a sentence with each one. Your sentences should link to Mr. Roget’s story.

  •  Re-create a timeline of Mr. Roget’s life, marking at least five important events. Add a keyword for each event and list several synonyms beneath each word.
  • To adopt effective work methods
  • To communicate appropriately
  • To use creativity
  • To use information
  • Visual Arts