Children’s Book Reviews
Children's Book Review: The Book of Languages: Talk Your Way Around the World
Publish April 16, 2015
In The Book of Languages: Talk Your Way Around the World, travel writer, Mick Webb, takes readers on a whirlwind linguistic tour. Introductory pages explain the importance of language and provide a breakdown of language family trees, such as the largest, Indo-European, which is spoken by 3 billion people. With this etymological framework in place, the book explores 21 different mother tongues, including Arabic, Russian, Mandarin-Chinese and Zulu. Non-verbal languages such as sign, Morse code and semaphore are also represented. Plenty of information is packed in every double-page spread. The clearly-written text and clean graphic design work together to enhance understanding, for example, maps pinpoint where each language is spoken and the flags of the respective countries are displayed. Sidebars explain customary greetings (“Tum kaise ho” means “How are you” in Hindi-Urdu”), pronunciation tips (“h” is never pronounced in Spanish), and grammar rules (German is the only world language which begins all nouns with a capital letter). Chatty speech bubbles also capture sample conversations, like this Swahili exchange: “Jambo. Habari gani?” [Hello, how are you?] / “Sijambo, asante” [I’m fine, thank you]. A glossary and a comprehensive index round out this instructive guide. As Mick Webb ably reveals, while languages vary around the world, we all share a need for communication. From “Marhaba” (“Hello” in Arabic), to “Tupananchikkama” (“Goodbye” in Quechua), The Book of Languages offers many salient talking points.
Linda Ludke is a librarian at London Public Library. Her reviews have appeared in Quill and Quire, School Library Journal and CM: Canadian Review of Materials. When she’s not reading and writing she also loves searching for vintage treasures.
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