Chambers School Dictionary; Chambers School Thesaurus
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The anarchic hero of many daring adventures, William, as depicted on our cover by Thomas Henry in one of his effective, humorous pen and ink illustrations, is now a period piece. A William de nos jours illustrated by Tony Ross and aimed at a younger audience stands alongside him. This new William will be featured in adaptations of the stories by Martin Jarvis. Richmal Crompton, author of the William books, is the subject of this issue's Authorgraph. Thanks to Macmillan Children’s Books for their help with this November cover.
Chambers School Dictionary
Chambers School Thesaurus
Chambers have been compiling dictionaries for a long time, and their experience shows in these two new volumes designed for children to use at school. The idea of school dictionaries tends to conjure up a dry, pedantic image, and the temptation for publishers trying to come up with something new must be to go for something gimmicky and modern-and not ultimately very useful. Chambers have resisted this and come up with two basic word-books that are exactly as they should be-clan, attractive and exception ally easy-to-use.
One of the attractions of the two books is their neat, compact format. This not only gives the page a friendly size for a child to dip into a bag for carrying to school. Yet a solid hard cover suggests they could be very hard-wearing.
The Dictionary contains over 40,000 definitions, so is fairly comprehensive for a dictionary for this age range. It also copes with the modern world well, including clear definitions for words like 'rap' and 'cybercafe'. There are lots of useful features introduced in a low-key but effective way, such as words that could be confused, less-clich$ed alternatives, and interesting panel features on, for instance, regional pronunciation and the history of English. There are also fascinating little insights into where certain words came from. Did you know, for instance, that the word 'jubilee' comes from a Hebrew word for 'ram's horn', blown to announce the start of the Jewish year?
The Thesaurus is equally clear and equally usable, and must surely help a lot of children find a good range of alternative words. It contains over 155,000 synonyms add antonyms, examples to illustrate subtle differences in meaning and help with misused or overused words. As with most thesauruses, it often fails to deliver just the alternative word you are looking for, but it does better than most- and with such exceptional clarity and economy that this is a minor problem. Its one limitation is the decision- presumably for space and clarity-to provide only single words as alternatives, not phrases.
All-in-all, these are welcome additions to the range of essential school books and will surely provide millions of children with their basic word books for years to come.