written by Lemony Snicket; illustrated by Maira Kalman
(HarperCollins Publishers) 2010
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher
A despondent bird eats cake with her friend, the dog. While the bird is busy, the dog goes to town in a convertible driven by a well dressed goat. To help cheer up his avian friend, the dog goes to buy a hat at a haberdashery with a scarlet door. Did I mention the store was run by a baby? The baby remarks that the hats purchased by the dog have panache and his bird friend indeed likes her hat. To put a neat bow on the afternoon, a mezzo-soprano stops by and there is more cake and singing.
13 Words is an odd book with lots of cake and hats and that is a big part of the charm. Sometimes you crave something different and this picture book fits the bill. As Dawn Little points out in her review, it's also a smart book in that vocabulary both common (bird, dog, busy) and uncommon (convertible, despondent, haberdashery, mezz-soprano) are intertwined with context clues to help the reader acquire new vocabulary. My twist on using this book in the classroom would be for students to rewrite this story using their own 13 words or create categories for students to choose from for the 13 words. For example, you could have categories for dessert, transportation, clothing, people, birds, adjectives,etc. You might write about a morose armadillo eating key lime pie or a downcast chickadee munching on petit fours. In the same vein, you could use 13 Words as an introduction to using a thesaurus and/or learning about synonyms.
Need a giggle? Click on the link below and enjoy the funny book trailer voiced by Mr. Snicket.