A charming introduction to Noah Webster, creator of “the second most popular book ever printed in English, after the Bible.”
Noah Webster loved words and wanted to be a scholar, so at age 15 he entered Yale University and became a teacher. When the Revolutionary War was over, he wanted to write a “second Declaration of Independence,” an American spelling book that would systematize American spelling. At a time when Americans spelled words any which way—“mosquito, moskito, miscitoe, misqutor, muskeetor”—this was a way to further unite Americans. He followed his speller with a grammar text, and eventually, at age 70, published his American Dictionary of the English Language. What could have been as dry as a, well, dictionary is here made lively and enjoyable, with appealing cartoonish illustrations and a clear and lively text. Webster is drawn with a balloon-ish head since he “always knew he was right, and he never got tired of saying so.” Ferris defines big words in brackets, dictionary-style, throughout the story, a playful device that becomes distracting, since most words can be figured out by context, even by very young readers and listeners. Nevertheless, the volume is a wonderful success in introducing Webster in such a charming manner.
Future wordsmiths may be IN-SPIRED [verb: stimulated] by Webster’s devotion to the English language. (timeline, more about Noah Webster, bibliography, websites) (Picture book/biography. 5-9)