CM . . . . Volume XX Number 3 . . . . September 20, 2013
Readers are informed from the subtitle that the contents of this book are a word game, and indeed they are as readers are invited into this compelling and wonderful adventure. Readers follow a red-haired doll in a toy chest morph into an energetic boy and see his amusing interactions with the various words. Before the readers' eyes, one word is transformed into another word by changing one letter at a time, with each changed letter highlighted in red. But on the next page, the author states that "a cat could become a dog". This doesn't seem to follow the pattern until Valerie Wyatt cleverly shows us how: cat-cot-cog-dog.
Wyatt demonstrates how substituting one letter at a time and in several moves results in a new word. As the book progresses, the changes become more complicated, with more words added between the original word stated and the new one created, an example being push to pull: push, hush, husk, hulk, hull, pull.
Wyatt is not new to the field of clever word play and writing engaging books for young readers. A writer and editor of many nonfiction books, several on the topic of science, math, weather and an award-winner in 2004 of the Tom Fairley Award for Editorial Excellence, she really showcases her creative talents in this title. Boy Meets Dog is a great idea well executed. There are challenges and fun for the reader in language exploration, word recognition, spelling, and vocabulary development. The sound effects in bold capital letters throughout add to the playfulness and humour of the text. Even the ending is delightful and highlights the dog's character.
Dave Whamond's colourful cartoon-like illustrations are full of dynamic energy, and they perfectly capture the exuberant vitality of the red-haired boy/toy as he explores the endless possibilities of this word game. Rendered in ink and watercolour, each new double-page spread becomes a story in itself with the illustrated words changing constantly to demonstrate just how effective this technique can be.
In an endnote, Wyatt has provided some background information and examples of Lewis Carroll's word ladders, originally called "Doublets". The object of the game was to turn one word into another by changing one letter at a time, with each intervening creation being an identifiable word. She supplies words of encouragement and instructions and tips to educators, parents and older readers on forming their own word ladders.
Reesa Cohen is a retired Instructor of Children's Literature and Information Literacy at the Faculty of Education, University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, MB.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.