Review Blog

Mar 12 2015

The greatest Gatsby: A visual book of grammar by Tohby Riddle

cover image

Penguin, 2015. ISBN 9780670078684
Highly recommended for readers, students and educators from 8 to 80! Like electricity or the soul, grammar is invisible. But when present among a group of words, language comes to life.
Tohby Riddle's new picture book is a visual feast, he uses colour, collage, text, comedy and emotion to delve into the definitions of grammar in our English language. The front cover entices the reader with the title The greatest Gatsby (superlative adjective), to the rail bridge where the singular word bird and picture travel on a flat rail car followed by the plural S and bird-filled car.
Each concept is clearly and concisely defined with the Latin derivation. The eight types of pronouns come alive when matched with Tohby's drawing of a wooden chair - indefinite pronouns - dotted outline, demonstrative pronouns - solid, dark inked lines and interrogative - a simple line drawing of the chair on its side. Adjectives follow using the chair motif again with the possessive adjectives displaying a chair reserved!
Transport and locomotion are common themes, photos from the 1800's and 1900's provide wonderful backdrops for the grammatical explanations. The creative use of loose letterpress type, his mother's typewriter, stamps with innovative colours, and artistic placement of font styles and sizes add to the enjoyment of exploring this informative book.
Even those tricky matters - it's or its, well or good, was or were, lie or lay are amusingly depicted. This visually delightful book is a must have for English and Literacy educators, libraries and classes. An excellent and insightful tool for studying the English language.
Tohby's illustrations could be adapted as videos, imagine animated pipes for conjunctions and connectives, or the cyclist and the bridge explaining prepositions!
Rhyllis Bignell

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