Monday, July 13, 2009

Big, Bigger, Biggest written and illustrated by Nancy Coffelt. Henry Holt, 2009 (978-0-8050-8089-6) $16.95

From its small format and laughing hippo cover, you'd expect this to be a pretty standard simple toddler book, and for the most part it is. But language lovers will find treats far beyond the usual fare, with unexpected words like "rapacious," "viscous" and "somnolent." Adults reading aloud could also dig up words to introduce like "superlatives," "synonyms," and "antonyms," if they like.

Each page features a different animal, who tells us a little about itself: "I'm slow," says the turtle. "I'm plodding. I'm languid. I'm ponderous." But the sloth is slower: "I'm poky. I'm laggard, I'm slothful." And the slug tops them all as the slowest: "I'm sluggish. I'm lethargic. I'm lackadaisical!" The topics are big/small, fast/slow, hungry, slimy and sleepy, so it's not completely symmetrical.

Illustrations are basic but animated, showing little scenes of the boldly outlined animals against colored backgrounds; the simplicity is an effective counterpoint to the complicated words. An excellent book for introducing concepts as well as stretching verbal horizons. (2-4)

© 2009 Wendy E. Betts

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