The Impudent Rooster

Story by Ion Creanga
Adapted by Sabina I. Rascol
Illustrator Holly Berry
Folktales from foreign countries are useful tools in our quest to teach cultural sensitivity and respect. The Impudent Rooster is adapted from a tale popularized by the ‘Homer of Romania’. Twenty-eight pages hold a few sentences each and are dominated by colorful, bold illustrations complex enough to tempt readers back for repeated inspections. Rascol is fearless in employing the English language, and we benefit from her liberal use of powerful words. This story, like many folk stories, is a bit on the violent side for the youngest of listeners. The rooster is thrown into perilous settings repeatedly. But older kids will understand and enjoy the metaphorical dangers. Parents may even see a chance to teach about styles of government as the rooster takes from the greedy rich man to redistribute wealth through the benevolent poor man. Read-alouders will enjoy the humor, hyperbole, repetition and dramatic rise in the story. Wait until your kids pass toddlerhood, then buy this one to add to your vocabulary-building toolbox.

Big Words:

tumbledown
ramshackle
advised
smoothed
humiliated
lurched
crowed
homeward
envy
amassed
wronging
enormous
dismayed
newfound
impudence
spied
impudent
plunged
floundering
singed
spouted
grating
steward
amidst
barred
pestering
herdsman
gore
aghast
utter
pondered
delightedly
estate
guinea
overflowed
extraordinary
procession
embraced
recognized
multitude
forgiveness
ill-tempered
gnashing
kerchief
honeyed
prospering
mistreat
accompanied

Mystery At Club Sandwich

Author and Illustrator Doug Cushman

Big words:

detective
ostrich
spied
boa

Mystery at the Club Sandwich is a tongue-in-cheek Bogart-style mystery. It’s not a ‘Big Words’ book, but it is filled with figurative phrases like, “I work for peanuts”, “She looked like trouble”, “tough nut to crack”, and “lost her marbles”. The author also has fun inventing nauseating peanut-filled recipes for the elephant investigator. They make read-alouders and their listeners grimace and laugh. Kids have fun following the clues and solving the crime. Club Sandwich is long and effortful as a bedtime story. It’s a good book for kids to read to themselves or to a parent who is cooking or folding laundry.

The Remarkable Farkle McBride

Author John Lithgow
Illustrator C.F. Payne
Fame teamed up to create this must-own, re-readable picture book. MAD Magazine readers will enjoy the influence of Alfred E. Neuman in C.F. Payne’s expressive, intimate illustrations. And John Lithgow brings his gifted use of language from the stage to children’s books. His love of language creates flowing, fun rhyme for read-alouders and listeners. Farkle and his family cycle through joy and disappointment with building anticipation that calls out for excited voices. Special center-opening pages reveal the grand, satisfying finale.

The Remarkable Farkle McBride provides an opportunity for the whole family to learn the lexicon surrounding the symphony. Fifty-seven words rarely used at home grace this joyful poem. One caveat: Farkle is violently adamant about his musical disappointments, and many instruments are harmed in the pages of this book. Anyone worried about children imitating such behavior might proactively delay reading this book until any risk of mimicry has passed. I give this book as a gift to musicians, music teachers and students. It’s a timeless and ageless treasure.

Big Words:

remarkable
astonished
superb
beseeching
shattered
resin
screeching
melodical
bore
rhapsodical
inspired
rapidly
mastered
notwithstanding
brutal
shrill
rekindled
trombonist
boulevards
declared
despair
blare
affection
xylophone
percussionist
clamor
prey
flattery
battery
howsoever
renowned
tether
conductor
recital
cooperation
vital
replace
baton
downbeat
foundations
glorious
bombastic
forsaken
spectators
satisfied
cymbals
pity
prodigy
passions
unsatisfied
tyke
adore
woodwinds
lyrical
exclaimed
despise
maestro

How I Learned Geography

Author and Illustrator Uri Shulevitz

Big Words:

devastated
crumbled
empty-handed
dung
steppes
surrounded
scarce
bazaar
approached
announced
triumphantly
apologetically
bitterly
furious
meager
enthusiasm
morsel
envied
cheerless
flooded
fascinated
exotic
savored
incantation
transported
wondrous
enchanted

How I Learned Geography is an autobiographical story. It holds lessons for every age: forgiveness, resilience, and the power of imagination. It transports readers and listeners to another time with new places and cultures. It gives parents a vehicle for gently introducing the concepts of poverty and war.

The Caldecott Honorawardees don’t always have rich vocabulary, but this one has deep words to accompany the deep themes it conveys. Buy this one. Read it to your babies, read it again when they’re elementary-aged, then again when they reach pre-teen, and again to your teens. There are layers upon layers to learn from this incredible and challenging book.

The Library

Author Sarah Stewart
Illustrator David Small

Big Words:
nearsighted            incredible
adrift                          olympiad
manufactured
preferred
promptly
goddesses
attending
volumes
parlor
ripe

This sweet biography tells the story of Elizabeth Brown, who is a role model for all book lovers. Her story is told in flowing rhyme and expressive illustrations, making it a pleasure to read aloud. The simple watercolors are framed by informative line drawings and filled with surprises and supplementary characters, some so subtle you might miss them on your first read. But on subsequent readings, their antics will have everyone laughing and looking more closely.

‘The Library’ serves multiple purposes in a family library: sharing the biography of a real-life philanthropist, celebrating a deep love of books and reading, applauding differences seen as ‘nerdy’ in some circles, inspiring smiles and giggles, recognizing the value in repeated readings, and filling little ears with words to grow broad vocabularies. This is one to own and share regularly.

Big Words for Little People

Author Jamie Lee Curtis
Illustrator Jamie Lee Curtis

Big words:

privacy
impossible
stupendous
superb
celebrate
consequence
irate
cooperate
appropriate
inappropriate
patience
disgusting
green-snotted
understand
inconsiderate
considerate
responsible
persevere
intelligence

Jamie Lee Curtis and Laura Cornell have created several fun, purposeful books. Their creations empower families by tackling the real challenges of being and raising small children. Humor and sincerity are balanced perfectly, making them useful tools in every parent’s toolbox.

The title brought this one to the forefront, of course. Big Words for Little People could almost be the title of this website. The book checks all the boxes: Funny, engaging, enriching illustrations that add layers of meaning and beg to be examined; novelty portrayed through the illustrations of families in familiar, but subtly intriguing situations; and rich vocabulary used in meaningful and memorable settings. The only reason this might not make your permanent bookshelf is the stilted rhyme scheme. Read-alouders may struggle to find rhythm never found by the author. Check it out at the library and try for yourself. We found amusement and talking points in the Yoda-esque reaches for rhyme. (e.g. “you persevere till the right piece you find.”)

Curtis and Cornell give parents a couple of bonuses in this fun book: extra big words in the dedication and cover flap texts, and validation of some hard-fought parenting values. The text tells kids, “Many things are too old for you that lots of your friends may still get to do.” and “Different is never something to hate.” Family, Respect, and Love are defined and celebrated beautifully, and the artists leave kids with a challenge to go ‘have some really great fun’ with their own big words! It’s invaluable to find books to give us additional opportunities to communicate these parenting universals.

Crow Boy

Author and Illustrator Taro Yashima
Published by Puffin Books

Big words:
tiny
forlorn
amuse
“kill time”
interesting
trudging
imitate
hatched
arriving

Caldecott Medal and Honor books are recognized by the American Library Association as “the most distinguished American picture books for children”. The new winners are often apparent at bookstores and libraries, but the old ones are worth seeking out for timeless vocabulary and read-aloud joy. Crow Boy is a 1956 Caldecott Honor book that allows read-alouders to transport listeners to an unfamiliar culture where they learn the values of acceptance, observation, perseverance, industry, and kindness. Synonyms for words toddlers hear frequently are embedded and recasted and well defined within context.

Readers fall in love with Chibi and empathize with the abuse he receives from his oblivious classmates, who fail to see the talents Chibi is developing as he struggles to attend school every day.  We cheer as Chibi’s gifts are recognized and valued by his community, and we wonder how many Chibis we know in our own lives.  Wondering this aloud lets families share a bit of introspection and personalizes the story.

Parents do super-multi-tasking when sharing this glorious classic.  Bathing little ears in vocabulary, introducing an impoverished, agricultural lifestyle, and teaching universal values.  This is one to own and read repeatedly.