Kirkus Reviews QR Code
THE BOY WHO ATE WORDS by Thierry Dedieu


by Thierry Dedieu & illustrated by Thierry Dedieu & translated by Julie Harris & Lory Frankel

Pub Date: May 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-8109-1245-7
Publisher: Abrams

An idiosyncratic tale that creates a gastronomical playground from mere words. Gabby (as his name reveals) is a boy who speaks too much. Exasperated by his endless questions and run-on sentences (``TheballoonisdeflatedbecausetomorrowisWednesday''), Gabby's parents tell him they won't speak to him if he continues to ``swallow his words.'' The analogy turns on a light for Gabby, and the poetry begins. He sees words as edibles: gargoyle is a meaty main dish, while cabinet is a sweet dessert. A doctor puts Gabby on a diet to cure him of a case of indigestion; Gabby rebels and goes on the equivalent of a hunger strike—silence. Without speech, his senses take over, and he learns to communicate to plants and animals, and to use languages like ``furniture'' to speak to tables and chairs. Eventually, Gabby is jolted by the arrival of Lola, who only speaks human. Preschoolers will find the concept less disconcerting than adults, and the only detraction from this synesthetic delight is the stereotyping of Chinese as a language impossible to understand. The illustrations are perfectly composed scrawls, poster-paint bold, and big. (Picture book. 5-10)