Words and definitions beloved by the author and representing 18 languages are arranged from one to three per page, accompanied by watercolor illustrations in subdued tones of russets, grays, greens, and browns.
Smack-dab in the middle, “smultronställe” has a solo gig: “lit. ‘place of wild strawberries’; a special place discovered, treasured, returned to for solace and relaxation; a personal idyll free from stress or sadness.” A blonde, white girl rests among grasses and strawberries, and a bouquet of strawberry fruits and blossoms decorates the opposing page. The book’s first words evoke dawn, and near the end are nocturnal and love-related words. In between are words and phrases with other themes, ranging from practical to philosophical and from nouns to adjectives. The many people populating the pages have pleasant, if generic, features; skin and hair types are reasonably diverse, though white figures predominate. Many of the words evoke humorous art, as in the pairing of the Japanese words “tatemae” and “honne,” or pretended versus true beliefs; one shows people in an elevator presenting a careful face to the world, while the other depicts the same people on a balcony, demonstrating “what a person truly believes.” Two small criticisms: the key to abbreviations is, oddly, in the back of the book, and there is no pronunciation guide. Accessible text and appealing artwork prime readers for such relatively more verbose larks as Ursula Dubosarsky and Tohby Riddle’s The Word Snoop (2009).
Great fun for anyone “wordly-wise.” (list of words by language, index) (Informational picture book. 8-12)