cover image Elbert's Bad Word

Elbert's Bad Word

Audrey Wood. Harcourt Children's Books, $16 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-15-225320-2

As the only child at an elegant party, Elbert hears a strange word. ``The word floated by like a small storm cloud. It was ugly and covered with dark, bristly hairs. With a swift flick of his wrist, Elbert snatched the word from the air and stuffed it into his back pocket.'' Soon the word flies into his mouth ``like a little gnat.'' When Elbert is upset a moment later, out comes the word. ``Everyone at the party was shocked. They couldn't believe their ears.'' Enter a friendly wizard gardener, who shows Elbert how other words, uttered with enthusiasm, are more satisfying than the little monster. The next time he needs to let off some steam, Elbert emits Thunder and Lightning! and Blistering Hoptoads! and the act brings him cheers from fellow party-goers. The slapstick events of the party will engage readers from the start; the image of the word as a little monster frees the story from didacticism while making clear that bad words are not necessary, given a few creative substitutions. A comic but sensible book on the topic. Ages 4-8. (October)