Book Review: Word Nerd

I can’t get over this book! Anyone who has talked to me in the last month has probably heard about how much I love this one for a middle school read. Actually I just love this book for anyone to read!


Word Nerd by Susin Nielsen

This book is well written with amazing character development. We just finished doing a novel study in class with it and almost all of the kids were hooked right away. My favourite part was a large group of students (mainly boys) who COULD NOT PUT IT DOWN! There really is nothing better than that, is there teachers?

The setting is in Vancouver, BC so some of the sights and places will be familiar to local blog readers. Ambrose (the main character) is a grade 7 boy with a peanut allergy who has a tough time at school and ends up being homeschooled. His upstairs neighbours are an older Greek couple who’s son, Cosmo, has just returned from prison. Cosmo becomes a “Big Brother” type figure to Ambrose and the story is mainly about their relationship and how the help each other out through the game of Scrabble. It is heartwarming, quirky, funny, and exciting – with an important focus on acceptance and forgiveness.

The Scrabble focus of the book had my students on a big Scrabble kick that culminated in a half day Scrabble tournament where EVERY SINGLE student was engaged in the game. (And proud moment of one particular ELL student who pulled off a 64 point word!)

When we did mini book reviews at the end of the unit, not a single rating was less than 3.5 stars in the whole class and there were a lot of 4 and 5 star reviews. Besides maybe my human rights lit circles last year, I really have never had such a positive response from an assigned class book. I had a few kids ask me to recommend more books for them too and two students are already reading one of the other books by Susin Nielsen that they found at the library.

Go read this – now! And then read it with your kids. It is THAT good!

Note: There is a bit of bad language (and some uncomfortable “puberty” type talk) in the book but I think that’s a big part of what makes it relatable and funny for students. In my mind the relevance and humour is something that students don’t get enough of at school and for that it is totally worth the uncomfortable moments when reading aloud.


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