Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary

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Anyone with even the tiniest bit of admiration for the English language will love the Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary, a work of love (and gobblefunkery) compiled by Dr. Susan Rennie, a lexicographer who has worked on many dictionaries for children and adults.

The title Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary may sound like a description of a stuffy and ordinary old dictionary, but that’s just not true. It is a careful blend of the “real living language of children” today that we see in the English language, like “aardvark” and “grizzly;” and all the delightfully playful words that Roald Dahl (author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The BFG, and Matilda) invented for our enjoyment, like “frumpkin pie” (P. 94), “snitchet” (P. 230), and “ucky-mucky” (P. 266). Young readers will learn words like “churgle” (P. 44), which means to “gurgle with laughter,” and “dogswoggler” (P. 66), which is someone who is very silly and makes no sense whatsoever. They will also learn to identify many mystical creatures, including the Fleshlumpeater (P. 86), the “humplecrimp” (P. 122), and the “Manhugger” (P. 147).

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This delightful book is 287 pages of fun and surprises. A very detailed chart called “How to use this dictionary” explains…well, how to use the dictionary. For example, children quickly learn that headwords in blue are invented words, the alphabet down the side of each page shows where the reader is in the dictionary, and “Ringbelling Rhyme” words that help children write their own poems or songs.

The Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary does not purport to be a standard dictionary, but according to a review by Horn Book, “it’s not a bad place to find out how to use one.” In fact, it’s so much fun that it may well be the only dictionary that readers will probably treat as a true manuscript. Mr. Quentin Blake (known as Mr. Dahl’s principal illustrator), outdoes himself with the mystical, pastel-colored drawings of giants, creatures, and “human beans” (human beings). His illustrations are so endearing that he was once knighted for “services to illustrations.”

For an all-around wordy good time, use the Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary for guided reading, creative writing, art classes, or independent fun. Also, since this book commemorates the 100th birthday of Roald Dahl, it can even be used as supplemental reading for his most popular works. This one’s a keeper!

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