PPBF: The Playgrounds of Babel

Author: JonArno Lawson
 Piet Grobler
Publisher: Groundwood books, 2019
Themes: playgrounds, language, diverse community
Opening: “(lettering that looks like code).” “What is she saying?” “I’ll translate.”

Summary: (from the publisher) This story begins with an old woman telling a tale to a group of children in a playground. One of the boys can’t understand what she is saying, so another offers to translate. The old woman’s tale is inspired by the Tower of Babel story. Told entirely through dialogue, moving back and forth between the old woman’s tale and the exchange between the two boys, this story raises questions about what divides us and what brings us together, in spite of all our differences.

I like this book because: the reaction! I just shared this book with a friend and former biologist and the look on her face reading the first page was priceless! disgust and laughter in the first paragraph! we were just talking about education reform, and THIS book epitomizes the approach we would like to see, coupling fun with learning! Solid facts with hilarious humor – and many other levels of practical knowledge. PERFECT!

Resources/activities: check and see if your local or school library has books in other languages, or bilingual books. Go ahead and “judge them by their covers”. Try and read them aloud, even if you don’t know what you’re saying! It can be fun to try. Now try and decipher what those words might be, based on the language skills you already possess. So many words in English have been borrowed and transformed from other languages, so you might be surprised that you recognize some! Do the pictures seem to help you understand?

For more Perfect Picture Book Friday picks with teacher/parent resources, check out the list on Susanna Hill’s blog  HERE. 

Posted in Perfect Picture Book Friday

16 thoughts on “PPBF: The Playgrounds of Babel

  1. This book is a wonderful discovery. Perfect title! Love the humor. I’ve studied several foreign languages, so I really liked your suggested activities for children and adults. It does make you realize that many of our English words are similar to those in other languages. Fun share today!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I was already lured in by the title when I saw it on Susanna’s site. This linguistic gem is right up my alley (and onto my bookshelf!)


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