The Right Word

Author:  Jen Bryant
Illustrator:  Melissa Sweet

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I could tell you that this is a “good” book, but that just wouldn’t do. Instead, I have to say, “This book is a marvel, a wonder, a surprise!”

The marvel is that the thesaurus began in the mind of an eight year old boy, Peter Mark Roget, who instead of writing stories, began writing lists.  The lists helped him remember his lessons.  These lists also gave him something to do when his mother drilled him with questions:

Do you need a nap?” . . . “Won’t you eat something?”. . . “Do you need some air?”

Mama, I’m fine.”  That is when Peter thought, fine wasn’t quite the right word.  And his mind began to mentally list: glad, cheerful, well, dandy, content, never better, splendid, not bad, happy as the day is long, nice…

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The wonder is that Roget entered medical school at the age of fourteen and graduated when he was nineteen.   He completed his thesaurus at the age of 26.  He tutored in math, science, and French.  in 1852, Roget published his Thesaurus. People snatched it from the shelves; the first thousand copies sold out quickly.

So, what is the surprise in this delightful book?  Actually, I found many, several, quite a number.  But I think I will let you find some surprises for yourselves.  For instance, was Peter Mark Roget ever “smitten” with anyone? And what does the word “thesaurus” mean?   Even the illustrations in this book are imaginative and filled with surprises.


We told you that this month we would gift you with books about “words” and this book will be a book your children and family will treasure.  The next time you are searching for just “the right word”, you will know who to thank, Peter Mark Roget.


Mary Byrne Kline

Book Trailer for Roget and his Thesaurus

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