The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus by Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet

To describe this book as ‘lovely’ or ‘NICE’ would be understating it, to put it mildly. Thankfully, there’s also ‘marvellous’, ‘awe-inspiring’, ‘breathtaking’, ‘remarkable’… — just a few examples of the more than a dozen more accurate words that may be used to convey the accomplishment that is this non-fiction picture book.

And one of the reasons I — or anyone else who cares to find out — know this for a fact, is aptly credited to one man: Peter Mark Roget, the subject of this book who envisioned and authored the eponymous tome that would allow anyone to easily express themselves with just the right word(s). In fact, Roget’s Thesaurus has remained continuously in print since 1852 — no small feat.

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Packed with meticulously researched information that has been pared down and presented in bite-sized vignettes, this is an accessible biography that anyone from age five and up can enjoy — particularly if, like me, you are a lover of words and have benefited from the thesaurus in any way.

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The flawless book design and stunning illustrations, however, are what propel the book into the lofty category of art. The collage-style illustrations painstakingly incorporate the actual imagery and text from Roget’s work, as well as old botanicals, vintage papers and other mixed media — all of which combine to produce a multilayered and irrepressible visual feast, with an authenticity and deep sense of history that lend the book a joyful gravitas, and, more importantly, successfully convey the essence of the man himself: the true hallmark of a successful biography.

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