Being in love with books and words, I am instantly drawn towards books that advocate books, the power of words and the importance of libraries. In my search for such books, I happened to lay my hands on ” The Boy Who Loved Words “. I had heard a lot about this book, hence my curiosity was piqued. Unlike the wonderful reviews I found online, I am not exactly floored by the book. The story is beautiful but could have been better. There are certain aspects of the book which I found disturbing and that shattered the joy of reading this book.
Genre: Children’s Fiction, Picture Books, Read aloud book, Realistic fiction, Inspirational
Plot: Selig is a boy who loves words. He collects words and finds ways to use them. His parents are distraught about this habit of his, and worry about his future. His classmates find him eccentric since he does not play with them, and sits in a corner with his words. He is labelled an oddball which hurts him deeply. He questions his love for words and himself. One night he dreams of a genie who helps him realize his love for words and his passion. He runs away from his home on the “trail of his purpose“. Does he continue his love or does he abandon it???
The plot is a great idea for a book but the execution falls flat on my expectation. It seems hurried and not really a culmination of the climax. It might seem to some readers that the author keeping in mind that this is children’s literature ran short of ideas to conclude her book and hence chose the safest happy ending.
The things that disturbed me about the book are that the author chose children’s fascination for words and vocabulary but did not fulfill the thirst. Selig only writes down words he heard and liked. He didn’t find out what it meant. In real life, children will pause to search for meaning of the word, rather than meaninglessly collect words. The very purpose or aim of collection is defeated if Selig doe not know the meaning. It seems a little over reaching for young kids that Selig felt the words and understood the meaning instantly. Students will need an explanation on what the word means and they are going to have no idea by just hearing a funny word and then writing it down. This in a way hinders growth of vocabulary when it seems to propagate feeling the word for meaning rather than search the meaning.
The illustrations though colourful and expressive displays faces as inert/lifeless and one dimensionally old. Even the face of child Selig seems older than either his father or mother. The children also didn’t seem young. the only illustrations I loved where when Selig stuck the words on a tree. Th tree looked beautiful. Other than that all characters seem to blend together without major distinctions. The stereotyping of the accent of the genie sounded racist and disparaging.
Setting aside these jarring notes, the book is a fun read for kids. The book can be used in multiple ways with kids to introduce a fascination for words, increase vocabulary, and teach about glossary. There is a glossary of words found inside the book. These can be used to engage kids in word power games.
There are some important underlying themes which run through the book and could have been dealt with better. There is the theme of bullying by other kids, the unacceptance of society of people who are different, self awareness, family bonding, dreams, self expression and discovery,etc.
A one time read for me, not sure if it will hold the interest of kids long. This book has a good message, the problem was that it lacked any spark for kids to be engaged. For Elementary school, the words used are too difficult. The book is best suitable for grade 5 and above to be really enjoyed. The kids I feel would otherwise be confused and bored. There is something lacking when you end the book. What is lacking?? Depends upon each reader.