I don’t know how Duborsarsky managed to write a children’s book about grammar which offers clear, concise explanations while at the same time managing to be entertaining. Judging by the hundreds of dry grammar books published over the past fifty years, it appeared to be an impossible task. Duborsarsky has proven this is definitely not so, with her children’s book The Return of The Word Spy, illustrated by Tohby Riddle. The Word Spy, the prequel to this book, was published in 2008 and took kids on a journey through the eccentricities and oddities of language. The Return of the Word Spy, published in 2010, throws kids into a complicated world of grammar. The character of The Word Spy is a charming, engaging narrator. At the end of each section there are puzzles for kids to decipher, and if they do so correctly they uncover a hidden message.

Ursula Dubosarsky is an Australian author who lives in Sydney.  She writes fiction and non-fiction for children and young adults. This book is brilliant. It uses funny examples to explain technical concepts, and invites the reader to go on a journey with The Word Spy, and to become a Word Spy themselves, rather than shutting out the reader and simply explaining the knowledge. The Word Spy and The Return of The Word Spy are two books which I think are so important for children to read. They teach children the joy in language rather than the prescriptive grammar rules which have too many exceptions to count. It shows that all these technical terms don’t have to be as complicated as they appear.

Riddle’s illustrations are a great accompaniment to Duborsarsky’s playful text. He deliberately illustrates misnomers and manages to make words and language come alive in his pictures. There is so much information contained in this book, and it is divided into sections. While each section is linked and there is a clear logical progression, kids can also look at the contents page and start with the chapter that most appeals to them.

This is a book written for kids, yet I daresay several adults would get a lot out of this book too. I know I certainly did. If kids want to find out more, they can visit http://wordsnoop.blogspot.com.au/ .

The Return of the Word Spy

Viking, Penguin Books, 2010