The Word Collector

Book review by
Jan Carr, Common Sense Media
The Word Collector Book Poster Image
Word-loving boy shares his passion in this delightful gem.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Many vocabulary words! Concept of syllables. Concept of having collections and of organizing them into categories, plus using scrapbooks to do so. Concept of pairing unlikely words together for poetic effect.

Positive Messages

Words are fun, and it's fun to learn new ones. Words that express empathy and connection are powerful. "The more words he knew the more clearly he could share with the world what he was thinking, feeling, and dreaming." "Reach for your own words tell the world who you are and how you will make it better."

Positive Role Models & Representations

Jerome loves language and takes great pleasure in collecting interesting words wherever he encounters them. He's focused and industrious. He organizes and categorizes his collection. He uses words to write poems and songs, to communicate empathy, and to share what he's thinking, feeling, and dreaming with the world.

Violence & Scariness

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Word Collector by bestselling author/illustrator Peter H. Reynolds (The Dot) features an adorable boy of color with a jaunty outcropping of purple hair who has a quirky passion -- collecting words. Never dry or teacherly, the book feels like a joyous romp as it celebrates and promotes a love of words and language, with a whole host of new vocabulary words pictured on slips of paper -- "symphony," "zither," and "onward." Kids will be inspired to "collect" interesting words that strike their own fancy. The book also carries the strong and clear message that words are powerful tools for expressing what we are "thinking, feeling, and dreaming." Kids of various races are pictured, including one girl wearing a hijab, and a boy in what might be a Muslim prayer cap.

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What's the story?

In THE WORD COLLECTOR, Jerome has a special collection -- words -- and he notes them wherever he finds them. He writes the words down, pastes them in scrapbooks, organizes them by category, pairs them in usual and striking ways, and uses them to write poems and songs. His most powerful words express empathy for others. When he empties his bags of words from a high hill to share his thoughts and feelings with the world, he watches "children in the valley below … scurrying about collecting words from the breeze. Jerome had no words to describe how happy that made him."

Is it any good?

It's hard to decide what's the bigger charmer here -- the book itself, or its delightful main character, a brown-skinned boy with a puckish puff of purple hair who busies himself collecting words. This book packs so much in so little that word lovers will want to read The Word Collector again and again. Author-illustrator Peter H. Reynolds grounds young readers by first introducing the concept of collections, picturing kids collecting bugs and baseball cards. "And Jerome? What did HE collect?" As Reynolds tells us with a concise literary flair, Jerome collects "Short and sweet words. Two-syllable treats. And multi-syllable words that sounded like little songs."

The book brims with treats. When Jerome finds words in a book, the art shows him with an open copy of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, writing down the word "Emerald." One page notes "words whose sounds were perfectly suited to their meaning," while picturing kids' drawings of "torrential," "bellow," and a smudged-out "smudge." And the pages on which Jerome practices some of his "most powerful" words, such as "I understand" and "I’m sorry," are so touching they send a little shiver up the spine. This book, as playful and quirky as its main character, is a gem.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the words in The Word Collector. Which ones are new to you? Which are your favorites? Do you notice interesting words you like in conversation, signs, or books? Where else?

  • What happens when the words go flying and Jerome sees that they're jumbled? Does it sound like a poem to you? Can you put some random words together or mix words around to make a poem?

  • Do you collect anything? How does Jerome organize his collection? How do you store the things you collect?

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