Title: The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus
Author: Jen Bryant
Illustrator: Melissa Sweet
Publication Info: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers (2014)
Suggested Age Range: Grades 2-5
As a person who loves words and has actually asked for a thesaurus for my birthday, I found this book both silly fun and totally informative. The Right Word is the story of the childhood and life of Peter Roget, who created one of the world’s first usable thesauri. As a small child, the death of his father greatly affected him.
The photo above depicts Peter, a budding writer. But, instead of making up stories, he made lists. He wanted to find exactly the right word for exactly what he was thinking and feeling. And, he discovered, there were often several words that meant the same thing!
Roget went to medical school, graduated (at 19), was a teacher and speaker at many society events. Uncommon for the time, Roget did not marry until he was 45. He and his wife, Mary, had two children. He watched other people create books similar to his own thesaurus, finally publishing it in 1852. Roget’s Thesaurus made him a famous author!
The Right Word is gorgeously illustrated. There are several pages (like the one above) that I would hang in my house as prints, if they were available. The illustrations bring to life the words that Roget struggles to find, and enhance the story of Roget’s life in a beautiful way.
Read-Alikes and Other Books
Word-lovers looking for other books about Roget, the written word, and how words have evolved should check out the following:
- Peter Mark Roget: The Man Who Became a Book by Nick Rennison
- Noah Webster and His Words by Jeri Chase Ferris
- Some Writer, the Story of E.B. White by Melissa Sweet
- A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams by Jen Bryant
- Roget’s Thesaurus
Websites, Activities and More
Help library patrons and students learn more about the written word!
- Thank you, Thesaurus: This activity helps people see the difference between the “right” and the “almost-right” word.
- The Right Word discussion guide
- Explore Roget’s online thesaurus
- Have groups of kids create word clouds. Give each group a word and have them come up with as many different similar words as they can