cover image The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus

The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus

Jen Bryant, illus. by Melissa Sweet. Eerdmans, $17.50 (42p) ISBN 978-0-8028-5385-1

The award-winning team behind A River of Words takes on the story of British physician Peter Mark Roget, author of the eponymous thesaurus. Bryant draws a clear line from the dislocations of Roget’s youth—the death of his father in 1783 and the family’s frequent moves thereafter—to his need for order as he starts making lists of words. “Words, Peter learned, were powerful things. And when he put them into long, neat rows, he felt as if the world itself clicked into order.” Yet Roget wasn’t merely a reclusive scholar. He meant for his thesaurus to have a democratizing effect: “I want everyone to be able to use my word book, not just doctors, politicians, and lawyers, but cobblers, fishmongers, and factory workers.” Sweet envisions Roget’s work as a shadow box crammed with the wonders of the natural world, adorned with exuberant hand-lettered typography. Together with Bryant’s sympathetic account, Sweet’s gentle riot of images and words humanizes the man behind this ubiquitous reference work and demystifies the thesaurus itself. Ages 7–up. Author’s agent: Alyssa Eisner Henkin, Trident Media Group. (Sept.)