I am a logophile—a lover of words. I love long words and short words. Words strung together and words by themselves . Real words, made up words, loud words and soft words. I like big lists of groceries and tiny names of places on maps. I love anagrams, acronyms, homophones and portmanteaus. But I especially love words when they are put in picture books. In a picture book, words can leap out from those stodgy, organized rows and columns you find in most novels and newspapers. Picture book words can dance and twist and change colors. They can shrink and grow or jumble up and run off the page. They can be skinny, fat, squiggly or krompish. They can hang upside down or blast from a cannon. There’s really nothing words in a picture book can’t do!
My obsession with words might have started with the eye-popping exclamations in The Monster at the End of This Book starring lovable, furry old Grover. Or maybe it was the seemingly endless little lowercase words tagged to everything in the world from Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever. But it was probably the rhythmic, rhyming onomatopoeia (what a great word!) of Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You? by Dr. Seuss that sealed the deal. These were the books of my childhood, and they laid the foundation for a long-lasting relationship with the written word. I’ve read them to my children, and some day I may even read them to my grandchildren. If you’re looking to build a young child’s library, start with these three classics. Because all it takes is one amazing word in a picture book to make any kid a lifelong bibliophile.
Tim McCanna is the author of Bitty Bot and Watersong. He lives in San Jose, CA and serves as assistant regional advisor for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators’ San Francisco/South chapter. Meet Tim for story time and signing at Books Inc. in Santa Clara on March 19 at 11:00am.