bonjour! wie gehts? and du iz tak?…two books for giving at Christmas

Today’s books fairly dance with the mysterious allure of languages. Each would make a great gift for a wide age-range.

Travel around the world to hear a fascinating array of languages, plus put on your thinking caps to delve into a fantastical world with its own new mother tongue. J.R.R. Tolkien would be so very happy!

du-iz-tak-cover-imageDu Iz Tak? written and illustrated by Carson Ellis
published in 2016 by Candlewick

It’s hard to forge new territory in children’s literature. What is it that’s never been done before? Well…this.

Carson Ellis voyages into the literal-unknown with this fascinating picture book. First, her enchanting, stylized illustration work creates a small woodland world. It could be contained in just about a cubic meter. Yet it’s a busy, happening place!


Seasons pass. Occupants arrive. Growth and change occurs. Plans are carried out. Problems are solved. Perilous adventures transpire. It’s your job to carefully observe all this commotion. That’s always the case in picture books, but it’s especially critical here because…

…the folk in this world speak an unknown language.

“Du iz tak?” one damselfly asks another. “Ma nazoot,” her companion replies. What can they be saying?


Press in to the text and the visual storytelling, and you will eventually decipher this newly-concoted vocabulary! Such a triumphant feeling!


Any of you linguistic-types out there will love this, whatever your age. Young children will be drawn to the illustrations, the storyline, and the unique sounds of the language. It takes patience and deductive reasoning to puzzle out the meaning of the words. Possibly some early-elementary children will help you out with that. But it’s a treat of a challenge for even college-educated persons. Highly recommended.

Here’s the Amazon link: Du Iz Tak?

the-hello-atlas-cover-imageThe Hello Atlas, written by Ben Handicott, illustrated by Kenard Pak
published in 2016 by Wide Eyed Editions

Now that you’ve got your feet wet with an utterly-foreign language, you really ought to dive headfirst into this extraordinary atlas of more than 100 world languages. Oh, Wide Eyed! How I love you!

Travel the world, visiting all seven continents, meeting folks from a multitude of climates, traditions, cultures, and above all — languages. Kenard Pak’s warm, textured, striking illustration work whisks us into the environments where these kids live.


Architecture, clothing, weather, activities, wildlife — there’s so much to absorb in these deceptively-simple panels which carpet the pages in engaging scenes.


Everywhere we go, children introduce themselves in their mother tongue. Find out the names of these languages, read the translation of the phrase in English, and see it written out in the Roman alphabet. But, but, but…

…the most amazing thing yet is that they’ve made a free app in which over 130 native speakers are recorded, speaking these lines!!! What a magnificent effort! It’s a beautiful, smooth, elegant app that allows you to flit around to any of the countries and languages represented.


With one little tap, someone rattles off these words. I loved imagining just who that speaker was as I listened to all the different voices. At the end of the book, pages and pages of further phrases are listed, not illustrated, and these, too, are included on the app.


Kids are information-magnets. They are little linguists. What a fabulous way to engage them in the wide world, to rev up enthusiasm for others and the loveliness of a worldful of languages. Ages 2 through Adult.

Here’s the Amazon link: Hello Atlas