I have learned over the years, that word play takes me a long way with kids. If I want them to think about words and word choice in writing, if I want them to pay attention to new words they see and hear, and if I want them to discover the power of words, they must first have fun with words. So, I am always looking for new books that help kids celebrate the fun in words. I often use these books in the first six weeks of school to start various conversations about words that we'll come back to. Each of these books is fun and playful and invites kids into the joy of word play. Most of the books listed are natural invitations for children to play with words in lots of ways!
Mr. Putney's Quacking Dog by Jon Agee is a fun book about a man who has all sorts of animal (and other) friends. Each page serves as a type of riddle for readers. The wording of the riddle give readers a clue into the answer to the riddle and each requires that readers put together two words. This is the perfect level of humor and word play for young and middle grade readers. The language play is very accessible to them.
This Plus That is Amy Krouse Rosenthal's newest book and is such fun! Rosenthal puts words into equations to help define the word a bit. The equations become a riddle for the reader and kids definitely leave this book wanting to try word equations of their own.
Chicken Cheeks by Michael Ian Black is a book about bottoms. The illustrations and words work together to describe animals trying to get to the honey at the top of a tree. But the main words in the story label the "bottoms" of each animal. A new word is used to label each animal's bottom (derriere, patootie, etc.) This is a fun book and a great way to begin conversations about synonyms and word choice. (The video of Michael Ian Black reading this one aloud is quite fun!)
Animal Soup by Todd Doodler is a lift-the-flap book. It is a another book that combines two known words to create a new word. Doodler asks the reader a question that requires combining two animal words and the reader lifts the flap for the answer. A fun read for young children and a great way to begin discussions about word parts with older kids.
Q is for Duck is an old favorite. It is an alphabet book but it is a little bit tricky. The book follows a pattern telling readers things like "Q is for duck". When the reader turns they page, they realize that "Q is for duck" because "a duck quacks." Readers love to work to figure out how the letters relate to the word given. A fun game for readers to play and the text is great for new readers.
I love the way that Liz Scanlon thinks about pockets in the book A Sock is a Pocket for Your Toes. Who could have thought of a sock being a pocket for your toes? This book is full of ideas like this and it is great fun looking at how authors can play with words in unique ways.
I just found is One Foot, Two Feet by Peter Maloney. The book appears to be a simple counting book but the paired words are really "exceptional plurals". The illustrations are shown with cut out frames and the words are show the various ways that we turn singular words into plural words.