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Author: Lemony Snicket

Illustrator: Maira Kalman

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Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers,

Material: hard cover

Summary: Thirteen Words opens with the word "Bird," the main character in the story. We learn next that the bird is "despondent," and throughout the story the Bird's friend, a Dog, searches for ways to make the bird happy. Along the way, Dog enlists the help of other characters to help. Bird becomes a little bit more happy at the end of the story when the Dog gives the Bird a hat, but sadness remains. We see at the end a window sill, hinting that Bird wants to be free to fly. The book elicits the meanings of 13 words and provides definitions and examples of each word given.

Type of Reading: bedtime story, family reading, independent reading, read aloud book, learning to read, transitional reader

Recommended Age: read together: 4 to 8; read yourself: 9 to 11

Interest Level: 4 to 10

Reading Level: 3.4

Age of Child: Teen STAR Review Team, Be the Star You Are!

Young Reader Reaction: This book targets a very young audience from about new born children to first grade. Overall I enjoyed the oddness of the story and how it includes a baby as a store owner and strange, random words such as, Mezzo-Soprano, Haberdashery and Panache even though it was a bit too strange. I also liked how the author was not trying to be so simple and included a few complex words and made the story a bit more detailed and involved. Overall it was a good story and I do recommend this for parents or teachers to read to their children.

Adult Reader Reaction: I didn't particularly care for the book. I re-read it a couple of times because I felt like I was missing the humor, but I just never got it.

Pros: This clever presentation engages kids to think beyond a set of words and understand the emotion each carries.

Cons: Some readers will find this too clever or hard to understand.

Borrow or Buy: Borrow. Teen reviewer: This is a good book for parents to read with their children or kindergarten or preschool teachers to read to their classes because it is entertaining and educational due to the many complex words the children can learn.


Educational Themes: There are several layers to the story. You can look at the words in a dictionary-like way to understand their meanings, you can talk about the imagery and/or emotion of the words.

Notes: The publisher donated a copy of this book knowing that we would consider it for review and provide an independent, unbiased profile. This book will be given to a nonprofit to help readers in need.

Literary Categories: Fiction - animal characters, friendship, middle grade

Date(s) Reviewed: February 2012

Other Reviews: See Critics' Reviews and reader feedback at and


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