Non Fiction Review: Once Upon a Word

Once Upon a Word by Jess Zafarris
Once Upon a Word: A Word-Origin Dictionary for Kids–Building Vocabulary Through Etymology, Definitions & Stories
by Jess Zafarris 

5 out of 5 stars

This dictionary focuses on word origins to teach vocabulary through the stories and history of words. The first section explains the roots of common Latin and Greek words and how the prefixes and suffixes attached to words can give clues to their meaning or completely change the meaning of the main word.

Organized alphabetically, each entry gives a paragraph with an explanation of the origin story of the word, along with its meaning, root language, and sometimes an example sentence. I really love the choice of interesting words, and how the information is organized.
At the beginning of each alphabet letter section, there is an illustration of that letter and a word like “Buoy” for the Bs, “Fossil” for the Fs, “Jewels” for the Js, and “Pterodactyl” for the Ps. The illustration is of a baby pterodactyl hatching out of its egg, or a ‘J’ encrusted with jewels. The illustrations cleverly use the letter itself in the illustration, and I like the cartoony style and bold colors and thick lines of the artwork.

The last section focuses on word play, with entries for words about food and music, and how different cultures developed words to describe their favorite foods and types of musical instruments.

The writing style is just right for readers aged 8-14 who are curious about words. When I was a girl, I loved to learn new words. I just wish I could have had a book like this when I was a kid!

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a free and honest review. All the opinions stated here are my own true thoughts, and are not influenced by anyone.

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