Written by Jen Bryant
Illustrated by Melissa Sweet
Published by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2014
Format: Picturebook biography
42 Pages ~ Ages 7-12
After the death of Peter Mark Roget’s father, his family moved a lot, making it difficult to make friends. Peter found companionship in books. He would later write his own book. Only his didn’t tell a story. The Right Word tells of how a young, smart doctor eventually published the lists of words he organized over the years. Peter Roget sometimes found the word he used didn’t accurately portray what he actually felt so he needed to find the right word. This prompted him to list words that were synonymous and categorize them in his book by idea.
Written in age-appropriate text that can be used through early middle grade (if chosen), Jen Bryant uses concise language to introduce readers to Peter Roget and what made him famous. Through this picturebook biography, readers gain an understanding of how Roget came to begin creating lists and forming a book that would later become known as a thesaurus. One of the things I like most about the book is how Sweet uses her research of Roget’s notebooks to create illustrations that mimic the way he initially wrote lists. And because I am such a Melissa Sweet fan, of course I consider the collages uniquely attractive. Her use of early thesauri, books, and watercolor paintings from different content areas are appealing to a variety of students whose favorite subject might be science, social studies, or art. Some benefits for readers using The Right Word for academic purposes are the inclusion of author and illustrator notes and a detailed timeline of significant events in Roget’s life and the world that did not have to be included in the story to make it complete. Bryant also includes a bibliography for those interested in finding more information about Roget.
Teacher librarians might implement CCSS when teaching about biographies. After learning about biographies, students could then choose a person to research and write a biography on, or write their own autobiography. Providing an assortment of picturebook or middle grade biographies for students to choose from equips them with a starting point for research. It also gives an example of how biographies written for students have an intent focus and/or time frame, rather than cover an individual’s life span.
- A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet
- Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade by Melissa Sweet
- A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet
- Bad News for Outlaws: The Remarkable Life of Bass Reeves, Deputy U.S. Marshal by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie
- Caldecott Honor
- Sibert Medal
- NCTE Orbis Pictus Honor
- New York Times Notable Children’s Book
- School Library Journal Best Book
- Kirkus Reviews Best Children’s Books
Take a look at the trailer to see how Peter Mark Roget made it possible for you to always find the right word.