First word books and The Big Book of Words and Pictures (Gecko Press)

Every child’s library should have a picture dictionary of sorts. Ergo, so should every good children’s bookstore (or children’s section in a bookstore).

When I was growing up, I thrived on reading and comics was an important part of the diet. I don’t remember if we had a picture dictionary, but when I was in my teens, I loved my Collins Gem (a tiny illustrated dictionary) simply because it told me things –what something looked like, how to use this word and etc.

Now back to this picture dictionary. You may find this strange, but this format is getting rather old fashioned. There seems to be less and less books like that, that are being republished. And of this small range, there are less good quality ones. My to-go publishers would have been between Oxford and Usborne.

A picture dictionary or perhaps sometimes just a 100 words book, feature scenes and then items from that picture will be named. It could be in any layout, with the purpose of helping a child/or parent identify things. These are usually set in familiar surroundings like at home, or in the park, or in the supermarket. Kids when they start to understand that each thing has a name for it, will love this kind of book. And usually it’s before they actually start to talk. Peanut was clearly in love with his book when he was around two. But he still loves them.

I recently had to scramble to look for a book about fishes, because I simply didn’t own many non-fiction type children’s books. And this has to be rectified. (in time)

Recalling a conversation with a publisher rep, who was telling us of his experience meeting with publishers in China who wanted to do a Chinese edition of their bestselling book which happens to be a first words book. They asked for several words to be changed like for Breakfast, they didn’t need Bread and Jam but preferred something that their readers in China could relate to.

Now, this will never happen in Malaysia, because there won’t be a special Malaysian edition of that very pretty first words book. Sure, we may not be able to relate but it also gives you a glimpse into others peoples’ lives. Also, we do eat bread, and occasionally rice, porridge and noodles. So maybe a Malaysian first words book will be full of food.

That being said, I wanted to recommend my favourite first words book — The Big Book of Words and Pictures by Ole Koennecke (Gecko Press). First of all, this is a huge book, and kids love huge books even if parents do not. The illustrations are simple and cute but the most important thing was, apart from being a first words book, the illustrations sometimes make up stories.

The pictures here, are of our actual copy which has seen better years.


The first scene is a bedroom, and you can imagine the poor mother elephant with all her kids, running around and trying to wake her up. (Also, all those words in the bedroom)

The second page is the living room, but before the kid enters, he changes from his pyjamas to day clothes.



This page with numbers is my favourite. It starts with one kid who meets another, and another until they make up a group of ten … heading for ….the next page, the playground.




The spread on vehicles also shows the fire engine in a real life situation, with fire fighters saving a dog’s house.
Can’t count the number of times my son asked for the numbers page to be read to him … one meets another and then one reads a book, then gets a flower, and leave the book and another picks it up. Now, he tells it to me sometimes. I recently came across reference to visual subtext, which I think this does fall under.

I really like this about the book. It tells you the words you need to know, or you want to know, but also makes you think about the possible stories behind mere things.

I’m not a fan of big board books, because they are heavy and very hard to avoid when it’s being thrown at you, but this is a book you need and kids would love.


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