Best Picture Books About Wordplay
P is for Pterodactyl: The Worst Alphabet Book Ever by Raj Haldar and Chris Carpenter, illustrated by Maria Beddia
You will LOVE this book — a top choice on this list!! Get your kids, sit by the fire, and prepare to laugh your way through the wackiest alphabet book you’ll ever read. Because in this book, “A is for Aisle” and “H is for Heir“. Below each letter and illustration is a sentence describing each word such as, “M is for Mnemonic. // But now Mr. M. can’t remember why.” Isn’t this a delightful, hilarious treat for word enthusiasts of all ages?
Stegothesaurus by Bridget Heos, illustrated by T.L. McBeth
This stegothesaurus was different from his stegosaurus brothers– he knows a lot of words and uses them to describe the world. When he meets an allosaurus who was actually an allothesaurus, at first it seems like they are meant to be friends. Until the Allothesaurus reveals how she learned so many words. YIKES! I’m so impressed with this clever story about a word-loving dino that has the cutest illustrations EVER!
Flibbertigibbety Words: Young Shakespeare Chases Inspiration by Donna Guthrie, illustrated by Asa Gilland
Words fly into William’s window one day but when he tries to catch them, the words run away. William chases the words throughout London, passing things like the king’s carriage and three women stirring a boiling pot, with phrases from Shakespeare’s plays. Luckily, a generous peddler helps William catch his words with a pen and paper. Now he asks the words to stay with him and they do, telling of “leaky ships and far-off lands, kings and witches, roses and love letters.“ It’s a playful, fun introduction to Shakespeare and a love of language.
Lexie the Word Wrangler by Rebecca Van Slyke, illustrated by Jessie Hartland
Calvin Gets the Last Word by Margo Sorenson, illustrated by Mike Deas
The DICTIONARY (!) narrator is very proud of Calvin, a boy who loves words. In this story, Calvin is looking for the right word to describe his older brother. From the breakfast table to the classroom and back home again, Calvin encounters new words like subterfuge, mayhem, and revenge but none adequately works for his brother. It’s quite a full day and the dictionary narrator is exhausted by the time Calvin goes to bed — until Calvin gets inspired by PRANK and the bond of FAMILY. A sweet sibling and word-lovers story.
The Great Dictionary Caper by Judy Sierra, illustrated by Eric Comstock
What a Wonderful Word: A Collection of Untranslatable Words From Around the World by Nicola Edwards, illustrated by Luisa Uribe
The Word Collector by Peter H. Reynolds
The Book Tree by Paul Czajak, illustrated by Rashin Kheiriyeh
You’ll love this allegory that shows the power of words as well as the power of one person’s actions. And what better what to show these important life lessons about stories than with a story? Arlo loves books — he starts a book by just breathing it in. “Beginnings were always the best part. // They smelled as if anything were possible.” Unfortunately, the Mayor tears up all the town’s books. Soon there is only one single page left. It blows away, landing in the dirt where it is swallowed. As time goes on, Arlo notices some unexpected consequences of no books. Like without storytime there is no nap time. Without cookbooks, the restaurants serve only cereal. Without plays, the actors have nothing to act out in the theater. But even with his sadness, Arlo realizes that he can write his own words into stories. His stories help the buried page of words to grow into a tree that blooms books. The people began enjoying books again and the town flourishes. HOORAY! Read this for Banned Book Week or anytime — I hope it will spark many great discussions.
Betty’s Burgled Bakery An Alliteration Adventure by Travis Nichols
The Keeper of Wild Words by Brooke Smith, illustrated by Madeline Kloepper
Brook’s friend, Mimi, is a writer who asks Brook to help her keep the words from disappearing. The two wander into the world where the wild words are waiting, ready to see and notice everything around them. As they walk through nature, they notice silver minnows swimming, bushels of sweet, fresh, tangy mint, and a green-velvet head, bright-yellow beak Drake lifting off. Special words are featured in colorful, bigger sized type, so kids notice the many rich nature words in the story.
Top Dog and Other Doggone Delightful Expressions by Carli Davidson
Word Play by Ivan Brunetti
The Longest Letsgoboy by Derick Wilder, illustrated by Catria Chien
Heartbreaking and beautiful with transcendent illustrations, this is a beautiful book for anyone who has a dog or who has lost a dog. An old dog walks with his Little one last time through nature, speaking to us in a playful dog-speak style. “She gives me a happyface. I wigglewag…We reach a bend in the gurgleburble, where hornheads and stripetails often visit, and sipslurp cool sweetness.” Later, when Little sleeps, the dog slowsteps to the softgreen, circles twice, and then hears his last letsgoboy. He closes his eyes and is lifted to a place where he’s young again. There, he watches Little as she grieves and eventually welcomes a new “awwwpuppy”.
E-mergency by Tom Lichtenheld, illustrated by Ezra Fields-Meyer
Take Away the A by Michael Escoffier, illustrated by Kris Di Giacomo
What happens when you remove the letter A? Well, beast becomes best. How about the letter D? Dice becomes ice. Super funny wordplay with an unexpected plot!
Miss Alaineus: A Vocabulary Disaster by Debra Frasier
The Boy Who Loved Words by Roni Schotter, illustrated by Giselle Potter
This beautiful picture book swells, sparkles, and percolates with Selig’s (also called Wordsworth’s) passion for words. “You too may find yourself lucky if, one day, while you are thinking or writing or simply speaking, the perfect word just seems to come to you. If so, you’ll know that Selig is near.”
Alphabetter by Linda Ragsdale, illustrated by Martina Hogan
Noah Webster’s Fighting Words by Tracy Nelson Maurer, illustrated by Mircea Catusanu
Ann and Nan are Anagrams: A Mixed-Up Word Dilemma by Mark Shulman & Adam McCauley
Anagrams are words that when mixed up spell different words or phrases using all the letters. The authors make it easy to tell which are anagrams by putting the anagrams in similar fonts and tell the story of a mixed-up word world. Don’t you think this would be a fantastic book for an elementary classroom?
“Bring me to your AUNT. She’s A NUT.”
“Poor Grandma! What a VILE, EVIL way to LIVE.”
The Dictionary of Difficult Words by Jane Solomon, illustrated by Louise Lockhart
Want a mesmerizing wordplay book that is even better than a word-a-day calendar? This oversized dictionary contains the coolest selection of 400 words that kids will love to learn beginning with abecedarian (someone who is learning the alphabet) continuing to Zeppelin. Each letter gives readers about 15 new words to learn. This includes the word, pronunciation, part of speech, and definition. You’ll find haberdashery, ichthyologist, luddite and mugwump, mulligrubs, mumpsimus, and mishpocha. Read one of these words (or more) every day. Then try to use it at least a few times in a sentence. It won’t be too onerous and you won’t be ramfeezled; in fact, learning new words might just be a salubrious experience because you’ll soon become a sesquipedalian.
You Love Ewe by Cece Bell
If you love words, wordplay, and silliness, this will be your new favorite picture book! An enthusiastic and loveable but oblivious donkey misunderstands what Yam is telling him about Ewe and thing Yam is talking about him. (You, in this case.) Eventually, Yam explains about homonyms but those make Donkey mixed up, too. “Hummanums? I thought they was called critters!” I LOVE this book!
Start Your Own Word Collections
There are multiple ways to begin your own collections. Find a special container such as an empty jar like you see above.
Cut out words you LOVE in magazines.
Write down words that INTEREST you on note cards.
Be on the lookout for UNUSUAL words in signs. Take photos.
Use sticky notes to write down FAVORITE and WONDERFUL words in the stories you read — picture books or chapter books.
Keep organized with a notebook or container.
Use Your Wonderful Words
Make up silly words of your own! Take two words and combine them together.
Write found poetry using your new words.
Play these five favorite wordplay games!
What are your favorite things to do with words?
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