The Cat in the Hat's Beginner Book Dictionary
A picture dictionary from Seuss and Co.
47 years after publication, I'm still stunned by what Dr. Seuss and team put together here. With drawings by P.D. Eastman (Go, Dog Go! and Are You My Mother?) (and branding by the Cat in the Hat himself), these guys put together a dictionary that stands alone.
There's a cast of continuing characters, consisting largely of Aaron the Alligator, little girl Abigail, and Abigail's Aunt Ada. (Hey, you have to establish your characters early in the story - I mean, alphabet.)
There are even storylines. For example, check out the first four entries. (And keep in mind that each one has an illustration.)
And check out this charming sequence for alike, alone, along:
Some of the illustrations in this Dr. Seuss dictionary are so clear in their intent that they don't even require words. (Look at alphabet.)
So how do you use this picture dictionary with your kids? Well, Dr. Seuss himself penned a statement that I find so clear and informative that I'm going to reproduce it here in its entirety:
This dictionary has a serious purpose. There is nothing more serious than helping a child learn how to read.
But the editors of Beginner Books, who put this dictionary together, decided they could be serious...without being stuffy.
So they made this book of words just as funny as they could make it. It's full of accident-prone alligators, intrepid aunts, underwear-clad uncles, naughty babies, mortified milkmen, reindeer in refrigerators, and fairies falling on their knees.
The average child, we've discovered, seems to like things that way. And that is fine. It helps us to focus the child's attention on the serious job we're trying to accomplish - to make him or her recognize, remember, and really enjoy a basic elementary vocabulary of 1350 words.
We offer no rules on how to use this book with your children.
Maybe, the first time around, you'll want to read it to them.
The second time around, they may read some of it to you.
You may hear in that statement Seuss (Theodore Geisel) giving a lot of credit to others. Is this really a Dr. Seuss dictionary? While the first editions of the picture dictionary credited Seuss, the edition in front of me credits Eastman (as well as "the Cat himself," whatever that means).
Doesn't matter. These folks at the time were churning out the best ever collection of picture book material, and on every page of this picture book dictionary, their genius shows.
In fact, this wonderful picture dictionary was one of the best-selling books of the 20th century. The sad truth though is that it doesn't do so well anymore.
What the heck are parents thinking? That kids can always look up a word online? Hello! This is a book you read rather than consult. This is a book you use to expand vocabulary and revel in the joy of the written word.
Dictionary.com isn't going to do that for a 5 year old.
So kudos to Random House for keeping this brilliant Cat in the Hat picture dictionary in print. It truly stands the test of time.
Children's book review by Steve Barancik
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