Word perfect

19th September 2003 at 01:00
Tom Deveson reviews dictionaries and guides.

Oxford Junior Dictionary. Compiled by Sheila Dignen. Oxford University Press pound;6.99

Oxford Junior Illustrated Thesaurus. Compiled by Alan Spooner. Oxford University Press pound;10.99

Black's Rhyming and Spelling Dictionary. By Pie Corbett and Ruth Thomson. A amp; C Black pound;6.99

Mobile phone and text message make it into the revised Oxford Junior Dictionary, demonstrating the eternally renewable nature of living languages.

More than 10,000 words and phrases accompany them. We are given numerous helpful illustrative sentences and many clear examples of the links between inflection and grammar. An engaging supplement on origins reminds us how anorak, boomerang and cactus, like countless other immigrants, generously enrich our native stock.

The Oxford Junior Thesaurus works in two equally useful ways. Synonyms - "other words you might use" - appear as tailpieces to exemplary sentences.

Grizzles, sobs, wails and weeps can replace cries in a description of a tired baby. Topic entries group words together in loose-knit conceptual families. Hyacinth is planted next to lupin, overcoat and bikini both cover the body, power station and cathedral rise to meet our admiring eye.

Black's ARhyming and Spelling Dictionary displays language in use and language at play. Ordered according to the end vowel sound, it throws up hundreds of suggestive juxtapositions. Crocodile and Nile imply one straightforward kind of poem. Didgeridoo and Irish stew or aristocrat and cowpat propose something more surreal or subversive. For children who, in Auden's memorable phrase "like hanging around words," this is a constantly surprising and deeply rewarding companion.

Reader offer: A amp;C Black is offering free copies to the first five TES readers to send their name and school address to Black's Dictionary Offer, TESTeacher, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1W1BX by September 29

Get Writing! Write that Poem; Write that Play; Write that Story; Write that Film Script; Write that Letter; Write that Report

By Shaun McCarthy

Heinemann Library pound;10.99 each, pack of six titles pound;62.64

So You Want To Write Fiction

By Tony Bradman

So You Want To Write Poetry

By Brian Moses

Hodder Wayland pound;10.99 each

Friendly advice and rewarding activities come together in Shaun McCarthy's set of books for key stage 2 writers.

The activities are well worth trying. You will finish with an eight-line poem or a set of instructions on how to locate your house or a conversation between two contrasting children on a school trip. Formality is honoured where necessary but the imagination is also granted appropriate freedoms.

Brian Moses and Tony Bradman draw on their own deserved reputations, but they also quote from such favourites as Jacqueline Wilson and Charles Causley.

In poetry, we are shown how ideas are conceived, how verses are structured and how devices such as personification and alliteration can make an impact. Fiction is clearly and encouragingly shown to be a matter of beginnings, middles and endings but also as much more than that. Aristotle and EastEnders are effectively cited, demonstrating that theme and character have been essential aspects of storytelling for more than 2,000 years.

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