________________ CM . . . . Volume IX Number 20. . . . June 6, 2003

cover My Very First Canadian Oxford Dictionary.

Clare Kirtley, compiler. Edited by Elizabeth Bisset. Illustrated by Georgie Birkett.
Don Mills, ON: Oxford University Press, 2002.
63 pp., cloth, $14.95.
ISBN 0-19-541797-6.

Subject Heading:
English language-Dictionaries, Juvenile.

Preschool-grade 2 / Ages 4-7.

Review by Dave Jenkinson.

**1/2 /4



You go in an ambulance if you are sick or injured.


A monkey is furry and lives in trees.


You are quiet when you make very little noise.

Based on My Very First Oxford Dictionary, which was published in 1999, the Canadianized version of this dictionary offers some 300 words which are each accompanied by a cartoon-style illustration and a sentence which "defines" the word. Obviously, the more important "definition" is really contained within the illustration as the text definitions, which obviously must be brief in an introductory dictionary, are too simple to adequately explain the terms. For example, without the clarification of a picture, the one line definition of "monkey" (see excerpt above) applies equally to many other furry, tree dwelling animals. Not surprisingly, most of the words in this dictionary are nouns, with a very small number of adjectives, and the few verbs are indicated via a coloured symbol. Each letter section is introduced by the letter's being presented in upper and lower case. All of the letters of the alphabet have two pages of words with the exception of I, J, O, Q, U, V and W, which get a single page, and X which shares a page with Y, a letter that also shares a second page with Z. The illustrations are multiracial in nature and show both boys and girls. The sentence which defines "dress" does so in a way such that "dress" does not define a girl: "A girl sometimes wears a dress." [emphasis mine] Along the outside edge of each page, the full alphabet is listed vertically with the specific page's letter being contained within a red circle.

internal art

     What My Very First Canadian Oxford Dictionary attempts to do in terms of defining words, it does competently; however, what the book does not do is provide an adequate explanation for the word choices that have been made. In the "Introduction," readers are told: "The words have been chosen to support and develop speaking, reading, and writing." "But chosen exactly how?" the reader might rightfully ask. On what basis was "moose" selected to be one of the defined words but not "deer," for example? Before meeting My Very First Canadian Oxford Dictionary, most preschoolers will hopefully have learned that text is normally read from left to right, but now they will have to make the adjustment to reading from top to bottom before employing the left to right strategy as My Very First Canadian Oxford Dictionary utilizes the common two column format of dictionaries.

     Like many dictionaries, My Very First Canadian Oxford Dictionary contains additional features. Among them is a section entitled "Words we write a lot" that simply lists, in alphabetical order, some 180 words, plus Canada's provinces and territories. What is the reader to do with these words? Are they the first words s/he should learn to write and read? Four pages of illustrated verbs follow, with many of the 50 or so verbs having already appeared in the original dictionary listing. Why, if these verbs were considered to be important enough for a special section, were all of them not included in the book's dictionary portion? Eleven colours are illustrated via oozing paint tubes while four shapes, square, triangle, circle and rectangle, are also illustrated. The days of the week and the months of the year are listed as well. Unfortunately, the months are unnecessarily listed in two vertical columns. Via the penultimate pair of facing pages, children are given the opportunity to count from 0-20 using socks as their counting vehicle. The closing pair of pages repeats the alphabet in upper and lower case and duplicates illustrations from the appropriate section of the alphabet.

     Homes, play schools and kindergartens may wish to add this book as a way of introducing dictionaries and as a way of expanding children's vocabulary.


Dave Jenkinson teaches courses in children's and adolescent literature at the Faculty of
Education, the University of Manitoba.


To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364