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Digging for the Origins of Words
by Mark Abley; Kathryn Adams, illus.

Mark Abley, the author of one other children’s book (Ghost Cat) and two excellent adult books on language, brilliantly combines his talents in Camp Fossil Eyes, about word origins. Etymology might seem like a hard sell for pre-teens, so Abley introduces his topic through the story of two characters: Jill and her younger brother, Alex, whose parents have sent them to camp in Alberta’s badlands. Instead of dinosaur bones, however, the two are searching for language fossils: the traces of Greek, Latin, Norse, and French (to name just a few sources) from which modern English evolved. (Dr. Murray, the camp’s grey-haired, twinkly eyed director, explains the origin of the camp’s name: it comes from  Emerson, who once referred to etymologists as seekers of “fossil poetry.”) Read more…