Noah Webster : Weaver of Words
by Shea, Pegi Deitz; Vachula, Monica (ILT)

Examines this important American patriot who is known best for his dictionaries, but also provided a number of firsts, including the first American insurance company, America's first copyright law and New York City's first daily newspaper.

Pegi Deitz Shea writes fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. A number of her books have won awards from the International Reading Association, National Council for the Social Studies, National Council of Teachers of English, and other organizations. She lives in Vernon, Connecticut.

Monica Vachula is an artist whose paintings and drawings have been exhibited throughout New England and are in many private collections. She provided the illustrations for Tea with an Old Dragon: A Story of Sophia Smith, Founder of Smith College by Jane Yolen. She lives in Harvard and in Hatfield, Massachusetts.

This highly illustrated, large-format book presents the life of Noah Webster (1758-1843) from his early years, when he neglected work on the family farm in favor of reading, to his later accomplishments, including an Americanized spelling book. Though his influence on political thought and education was notable in his day, he is best remembered for his dictionary of the American language. Shea's succinct text, longer than that of a picture book and with a reading level suitable for junior-high students, offers a well-organized and clearly written account of Webster's life, studded with memorable facts and supported by informative sidebars. Rich in color and detail, the oil paintings represent the period well. Though a couple of scenes show a little awkwardness in the relation of one figure to another, the portrayal of individual people and their surroundings is often very fine. Back matter includes an afterword, a chronology, and lists of primary and secondary sources. Copyright 2009 Booklist Reviews.

Bringing history to life for young readers is no easy task. Providing a clear outline of events and offering plentiful resources for further study is a good start. Whether young readers will really grasp Webster's enormous accomplishments remains in question. Webster earned a Master's degree from Yale; he also studied law and a remarkable number of languages. He wrote textbooks, influenced the development of the new nation, created the first comprehensive dictionary of the American language and worked to improve educational opportunities and practices. Shea's straightforward text describes Webster's life from childhood on his parents' farm through studying, writing and teaching, extensive travel and his long, full family life. She does her best to put his achievements into context and includes quotations from Webster's own writing. Vachula's realistic oil paintings likewise endeavor to offer a glimpse of life during Revolutionary times. Ultimately, the sheer breadth of Webster's life and achievement just can't be adequately covered in such brisk fashion, making this an intriguing introduction but far from the last word on this innovative thinker. (chronology, bibliography, index) (Picture book/biography. 8-10) Copyright Kirkus 2009 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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