13 February 2007

Eats, Shoots & Leaves: Why, Commas Really Do Make A Difference!

Author: Lynne Truss
Illustrator: Bonnie Timmons

This is the "kids" version of Truss's bestselling grammar book by the same name... but with pictures. Which makes this the greatest grammar book of all time. In your face, Strunk & White! Seriously, why didn't someone combine pictures and grammar like this sooner?! We grammaphobes are a lazy and fearful people. Words are the source of our anxiety. Why try to solve our problem by using books that only have more words? That makes about as much sense as trying to put out a fire by throwing cigarette lighters at it.

The book is laid out so that when you open it up, you see adjoining pages with sentences that are identical except for the punctuation. The pictures illustrate (literally) how much the comma placement affects the meaning of a sentence. (For example, see the explosive difference between "Eat here, and get gas." vs. "Eat here and get gas.") In the end there is a glossary explaining the grammatical method behind the madness. As someone who was frequently kept after school for my horrific use of the comma, this book is slowly starting to clarify things for me. Maybe someday the phrase "dangling participle" will be more than just the punchline to a dirty joke.

With the kids: With the help of your kids, create your own sentence pairs. Make them as silly as possible. Then give them to your kids to draw the accompanying pictures. If the pictures turn out nicely, proudly display them up on the fridge. If the pictures suck, tell your kid that you are going to put the pictures in your special drawer for "safe keeping".

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