Friday 24 March 2023

What a Wonderful Word

What a Wonderful Word by Nicola Edwards, illustrated by Luisa Uribe (Little Tiger) HB ISBN 9781848576453

This is a peculiar picture book. Each double page is devoted to a word which is untranslatable in the country from which it comes. For instance, in Finland there’s a word, ‘Poronkusema’ which means the distance a reindeer can walk before needing the toilet. A Serbo-Croatian word widely used across the Balkans is ‘Promaja’, meaning the much-hated draught created by wind blowing between two open windows. The English word ‘whimsy’ means playfully quaint or fanciful behaviour or humour.

Under each page entry are columns of (very small) text which expands on the word meaning. Again, these entries are odd. For instance, under ‘Whimsy’ there is a column about the World Worm Charming Championships, started in 1980 in England, now an annual event where competitors try to coax as many worms as possible from their 3 X 3m patch of grass in twenty minutes. The other columns talk about other whimsical annual events such as a cheese-rolling contest, a bog-snorkelling triathlon, and underwater Ludo.

Opposite each page of information about the wonderful word is a full-page illustration which matches the text. For instance, opposite the whimsical entry is a page showing contestants in the worm charming contest with a girl playing a violin, a man playing a flute, and a boy playing a harmonica. Up you come, worms!

The book is very informative and offers wide range of words from countries all around the world. However, it is difficult to ascertain its market. It’s certainly not for small children, and being a picture book, it’s not ideal for adults. Perhaps the readership is likely to be children aged 12 years and older.

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