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.