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September 25, 2012

New Books: Super Grammar

Okay, before I start, full disclosure: I make my living largely as a copy editor. And I've occasionally been accused by certain close friends and family members of being a bit, shall we say, overzealous when it comes to enforcing proper grammar. (I will spare you my thoughts on gerunds here, however. You're grateful, trust me.)

That said, even my wife—who may or may not be one of the family members mentioned above—has been disturbed at the rumors that English grammar is no longer taught in any structured manner in many or most grade schools. Our oldest is only in second grade this year, which as far as I can recall would be kinda early for discussions of dangling participles anyway, so I'm not really sure how true that rumor is. (The limited investigation I've done leads me to think there's at least something to it.)

Either way, given that Dash is a fairly advanced reader for his age, and given my profession, I had been vaguely wishing there might be a way of giving him an understanding of the basic building blocks of sentence structure and the like. Ideally, one that didn't involve my teaching him on weekends out of old, dry grammar textbooks from the 1980s. (That would not go well, I fear.)

So when I first laid eyes on Tony Preciado and Rhode Montijo's Super Grammar, a comic-book approach to basic grammar, I had high hopes. Which I then immediately tempered. After all, most attempts at making potentially dull subjects "fun," I have found, fail by leaning too far one way or the other: They're either so concerned with getting the educational points across that they aren't much fun at all, or they're lots of fun...without any real educational takeaway to speak of.

Still, I figured, leafing through the pages about superheroes (like The Proper Noun and The Preposition) and supervillains (like Comma Splice and The Fragment), it was worth a shot.
And turns out: Preciado and Montijo got the balance exactly right, at least for our kid. Dash is very much into graphic novels and comic books of all kinds nowadays (he's even starting to create his own), so Super Grammar was right in his wheelhouse thematically from the start. He saw it, picked it up, and consumed it in a day, without any exhortation from any pesky adults.

Now, Super Grammar is by no means the most complex of comics—there's no narrative as such, just a series of introductions of the "characters" and examples of their exploits (each of which serves as a grammatical example). The illustrations themselves are what I'd term "classic comic-book style," quite well executed but nothing fancy or especially artsy, either.

But the combination gets the job done marvelously. Dash liked Super Grammar so much from the get-go that it's become one of what I call his "lingering" books—it stays out on his desk or nightstand so he can read it again, and again (and again), over a period of weeks. It's even accompanied us on a couple of trips already.

And the book does have educational impact, it would appear—Dash appears to have a better conception of what an action verb is, or what purpose a pronoun serves, than he did before, and we've noticed his use of punctuation in particular improving since the book arrived in our home.

So while I don't expect that Super Grammar will—or should!—be the end of his education on the subject (one way or another), it's serving exactly the role I'd hoped it might: an easy, low-effort primer on the basics of grammar. And that—well, that's a pretty heroic accomplishment.

[Cover image courtesy of Scholastic]

1 comment:

  1. Caroline in San FranciscoOctober 12, 2012 at 1:13 PM

    This book is a hit with my 2nd grader! He's been reading it for his nightly reading home work, and I have to pry the book away from him. Some of the words are "challenging" to a 2nd grader, but he is hanging in there. I think he loves the "Super Examples" the best. Very well done book to make grammar fun. Thanks for the recommendation.