Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Right Word: Roget and his Thesaurus

The Right Word: Roget and his Thesaurus

Jen Bryant
Illustrator:   Melissa Sweet 
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 6 to 8
Eerdmans, 2014   ISBN: 978-0802853851

When Peter Roget was still a little boy, his father died and he, his mother, and his little sister moved from their home in Switzerland to England. The family moved often and Peter had a hard time making friends, so he turned to books for companionship. Books never disappointed you and you did not have to leave them behind when you moved.

   When Peter was eight he began working on a book of his own. Instead of writing stories, Peter began to write lists, beginning with a list of Latin words with their English translations. Writing lists helped Peter remember his lessons, and they also gave him something to do when his mother was fussing over him, which she did a lot. Peter’s mother complained about Peter’s writing habit, but he found it soothing to create his lists and it brought order into a world that was so often confusing.

   When he was a teenager Peter and his family moved to Scotland and Peter became a medical student at the medical school at Edinburgh University. He was only nineteen when he graduated so it was decided that he would work for a few years before entering the medical profession. He tutored some boys for a few years and then became a doctor.

   Though he was a busy man, Peter did not stop writing his lists. In 1805 he completed his first book of word lists, and he used it to find the word that best expressed what he was trying to say when he was writing and later when he was lecturing. For Peter words were gifts that should be treasured and used.

  In this remarkable book Jen Bryant’s lyrical text is paired with Melissa Sweet’s wonderful multimedia artwork to give young readers a compelling story about a man whose book of words, and their meanings, is now a valuable tool used by writers of all kinds.

   At the back of the book readers will find a timeline of Peter Roget’s life, an author’s note and an illustrator’s note.