My five year-old’s current vocabulary include words like despondent, haberdashery, and Mezzo-Soprano. Not because she’s any sort of verbal genius, but because her grandmother introduced her to one of the most wonderful books for kids I’ve seen in a long time.

13 Words by Lemony Snicket is a must-have for any early reader who likes humor verging on the totally absurd. We’re talking Ionesco-level non-linear, awesome absurdity.

The aforementioned 13 words include the big ones that impress the relatives, but also words like cake, bird, and spiffy. And no they’re not random (well,okay, a little random) but they’re all woven together into a quirky story about babies selling fancy feathered hats, birds painting, and goats driving convertibles, which all provide tons of opportunities for teaching about language, color, and art.

lemony snicket 13 words

Also, why cake cures most ills.

Maira Kallman’s evocative, colorful illustrations keep it moving beautifully, and I’ll be darned if I’m not despondent when my kids pluck a different book off Grandma’s shelf. It’s just that wonderful.

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