cover image Noah Webster and His Words

Noah Webster and His Words

Jeri Chase Ferris, illus. by Vincent X. Kirsch. Houghton Mifflin, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-547-39055-0

"Noah's dictionary is the second most popular book ever printed in English, after the Bible," writes Ferris toward the end of this quick-witted biography of Webster, which more than does justice to the man and his body of work. Although Webster comes from a long line of farmers, "Noah did not want to be in that long line.... Noah wanted to be a SCHOL-AR [noun: one who goes to school; a person who knows a lot]." This mixture of biographical detail, humor, and vocabulary-building continues throughout Ferris's account, and Kirsch's scraggly mixed-media illustrations create a decidedly unstuffy atmosphere. Webster is shown with a round, oversize head and exaggerated spindly limbs; as words come to define Webster's life (so to speak), Kirsch occasionally uses swoopy script lettering as texture. Webster's commitment to the newly formed nation of America is as evident as his love of language; a timeline and author's note provide further detail about his life. A rousing success [noun: the accomplishment of an aim or purpose]. Ages 4%E2%80%938. Agent: Writers House. Illustrator's agent: Edward Necarsulmer IV, McIntosh & Otis. (Oct.)