Some people collect stamps.
Some people collect coins.
Some people collect art.
Jerome collected words.
Are you a word person? Do you ever pause in your reading just to savor a particular turn of phrase, or marvel at the way words are spelled and sounded out? Have you ever gotten goosebumps during a reading of the Gerard Manly Hopkins poem, “God’s Grandeur”? I can say a hearty “yes!” to all these questions, and if you can, too, then I bet you’ll love Peter H. Reynolds’s picture book The Word Collector as much as I did. Jerome is the name of said collector, and he is a boy after my own heart—he notices words he sees, words he hears, words he reads, words of all kinds, and he writes them down and keeps them in scrapbooks. As illustrated, (also by Peter Reynolds), he is not particularly nerdy or bookish, just an ordinary kid going about his days collecting words.
The book tells a story about Jerome and his words, but I also love that it’s chock-full of great words itself. In his illustrations, Reynolds includes as many of Jerome’s words as he can on scraps of paper, making them readable and clear for his own readers to discover. Even some difficult vocabulary words, like “motif,” “zealous,” and “infinitesimal” are featured. If you’re sharing this story as a read-aloud, I think it would be fun to read it once, then go back through and see how many words are familiar and how many are new.
Jerome’s scrapbooks and penchant for grouping words in interesting ways put me in mind of friend-of-Story-Warren Jennifer Trafton’s books and writing workshops for kids (which you should definitely check out at http://jennifertrafton.com/) and also struck me as a superb craft or project to go along with reading this book. I’m sure there are kids out there who would love to keep their own word scrapbook, maybe with words cut from magazines or heard in other stories. My favorite moment in The Word Collector comes when Jerome’s scrapbooks get all jumbled, and he realizes that he can put different words together in ways that he never thought of before. It’s like witnessing the birth of a poet! Where I most connect with Jerome, however, is in his decision to share his collected words with as many people as possible. Sharing words and stories with people is my favorite thing to do, and the final image of Jerome’s words flying away in the wind for other children to find and play with is beautiful to me. I’ll be savoring this story, and Jerome’s love for his collected words, for a long time.
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