Posted in Middle School, Non-Fiction, Tween Reads

ChitChat Makes Phonics and Language Made Interesting for Middle Graders

chitchatChitChat: Celebrating the World’s Languages, by Jude Isabella/Illustrated by Kathy Boake. Kids Can Press (2013), $17.95, ISBN: 9781554537877

Recommended for ages 9-12

ChitChat takes a look at language – spoken, written, and sign;  how it’s evolved, and how it continues to evolve over time. Author Jude Isabella talks about everything from phonics sentence structures to the Rosetta Stone, slang, dead and endangered languages to how babies and toddlers can learn up to one new word every 90 seconds – all in 44 pages. It’s an incredible amount of information packed into a relative handful of pages, and yet nothing feels forced, rushed, cut off, or – and this is the most important part – boring.

Kathy Boakes’ illustrations are fun and interesting; she creates fun graphics using distorted faces from a wealth of ethnicities and giant mouths that call attention to interesting facts. There are fun callout boxes and graphics, including an interesting look at endangered languages of the world set against a map of the world. I was particularly happy to see a section devoted to diagramming a sentence – I haven’t seen one of those in far too long!

ChitChat is a good book to have in school and home libraries. Middle graders will get a kick out of the bite-sized facts and information, and pick up some Victorian slang while they’re at it (“fizzing fart catcher” is really a term I’d like to see someone bring back).



I'm a mom, a children's librarian, bibliophile, and obsessive knitter. I'm a pop culture junkie and a proud nerd, and favorite reads usually fall into Sci-Fi/Fantasy. I review comics and graphic novels at WhatchaReading ( I'm also the co-founder of On Wednesdays We Wear Capes (, where I discuss pop culture and geek fandom from a female point of view.

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