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‘The Dictionary of Difficult Words’ Book Review

'The Dictionary of Difficult Words' Book Review

I have always loved words and enjoy learning new words all the time. As a kid, I would read the dictionary for fun. Now that I am a homeschooling mom, I hope to impart my love of language to my children. My oldest and I recently began structured word inquiry (SWI) instead of conventional word lists for spelling lessons. In the process, she and I have discovered a lot of new fun words. When I recently saw The Dictionary of Difficult Words compiled and written by lexicographer Jane Solomon on Twitter, I reached out about reviewing the book. I was super excited to receive a copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

Author/Illustrator

Currently residing in Oakland, California and working as a linguist-in-residence at Dictionary.com, lexicographer and author Jane Solomon spends her days writing and editing definitions and working on other research projects like Word of the Year. She is a member of the Unicode Emoji Subcommittee, reviewing emoji proposals. She has a twin sister who is also a lexicographer. In addition to her work at Dictionary.com, Jane also writes her own website, Lexical Items, and is active on Twitter. The Dictionary of Difficult Words is her first book.

Currently living in an old mill in a small town in England, Louise Lockhart works as a freelance illustrator and designer. She applies her illustrations to products for the home that she sells in her online shop, The Printed Peanut. Her style is reminiscent of Eric Ravilious but through a joyful 1960s Technicolor telescope. She has illustrated a number of books for children.

Synopsis

Written for children between the ages of 7 and 12 but appealing to adults as well, The Dictionary of Difficult Words contains more than 400 perplexing but fabulous words intended to amaze, confuse, and inspire wordsmiths of all ages. Each hand-picked word is difficult to spell and day and most of the meanings are obscure to most children (and many adults). The 112-page full-color hardback book celebrates the beauty of the English language with simple, easy-to-understand definitions and colorful pictures that illustrate the words. The dictionary currently retails for $18.90 on Amazon with a list price of $27.99.

Evaluation

I am head over heels for The Dictionary of Difficult Words. You might even say I am ebullient “extremely excited or enthusiastic about something,” which is one of the words included in the dictionary. When my package arrived, I eagerly opened the book and began reading the introduction. The first two pages answer the questions “What is a dictionary?” and “How to read this book.” The next two pages explain the parts of speech (noun, adjective, verb) of the words included, tips for discerning meanings, and information about pronunciation. The final two pages offer end notes including an explanation of the singular they used throughout the definitions and an answer to the inquiry “What makes a word real?”

Cover of 'The Dictionary of Difficult Words' First Two Pages of 'The Dictionary of Difficult Words'

The rest of The Dictionary of Difficult Words is filled with a plethora of ineffable and pulchritudinous words (plethora meaning “a large amount of something,” ineffable meaning “too wonderful to be described by words,” and pulchritudinous meaning “very beautiful”). I have been keeping the dictionary on my living room side table so that I can flip through the pages and learn new words throughout the day. As I worked on this review, I told my oldest daughter that she is pugnacious “always arguing or fighting with others.” (She snipped back at me, “I am not!” proving my point.) I have already learned so many new awesome words, and I consider this dictionary salubrious “enjoyable and good for your health.”

Next Two Pages of 'The Dictionary of Difficult Words' Singular 'They' in 'The Dictionary of Difficult Words'

I absolutely adore the illustration style in The Dictionary of Difficult Words. The pictures are quite modern and rife “common in that place” with colors. I have noticed many contemporary books with the same style of illustrations, which feels like a mix of watercolor and woodcut. As I flip through the pages, I am struck by the bold and intricate drawings that accompany the words. In fact, the pictures are resplendent “so beautiful, as if sparking and shining” and bring many of the difficult words to life. All three of my children enjoy looking at the illustrations throughout the pages as well.

Letter H in 'The Dictionary of Difficult Words' L Page in 'The Dictionary of Difficult Words'

Recommended for little wordsmiths as young as 7, The Dictionary of Difficult Words is a perfect addition to my home library. As I previously mentioned, my oldest and I have been using structured word inquiry word studies in lieu of conventional but boring vocabulary lists. This tome “very large and heavy book” provides us with a frabjous “wonderful, joyous, and amazing” source of new and fascinating words to study. I have already started a new study on the base <doodle> after discovering the word flapdoodle in the dictionary, which is a current favorite in my house!

'Lexicographer' in 'The Dictionary of Difficult Words' 'Turophile' in 'The Dictionary of Difficult Words'

Final Verdict

If you too love words, I highly recommend checking out The Dictionary of Difficult Words written by lexicographer Jane Solomon and illustrated by Louise Lockhart. Written for children between the ages of 7 and 12 but also appealing to adults, the hardback dictionary contains over 400 fabulously difficult words to discover. Each word entry includes a pronunciation guide, part of speech identification, and concise definition. The modern illustrations, which come across as a mix of watercolor and woodcut, bring the words to life and brighten up the pages with splashes of bold colors. My kids and I are having so much fun reading the entries and learning so many fun new words. We give enthusiastically give The Dictionary of Difficult Words four out of four thumbs up!

Purchase The Dictionary of Difficult Words on Amazon via my affiliate link.

Image Credits

‘The Dictionary of Difficult Words’ Book Review © 2019 Heather Johnson
Cover of ‘The Dictionary of Difficult Words’ © 2019 Heather Johnson
First Two Pages of ‘The Dictionary of Difficult Words’ © 2019 Heather Johnson
Next Two Pages of ‘The Dictionary of Difficult Words’ © 2019 Heather Johnson
Singular ‘They’ in ‘The Dictionary of Difficult Words’ © 2019 Heather Johnson
Letter H in ‘The Dictionary of Difficult Words’ © 2019 Heather Johnson
L Page in ‘The Dictionary of Difficult Words’ © 2019 Heather Johnson
‘Lexicographer’ in ‘The Dictionary of Difficult Words’ © 2019 Heather Johnson
‘Turophile’ in ‘The Dictionary of Difficult Words’ © 2019 Heather Johnson

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