Wordplay: Ivan Brunetti’s Children’s Book


Ivan Brunetti, a cartoonist whose early works’ titles included Misery Loves Comedy and Schizo, is now reaching a new audience. (It’s not his first redirection: he’s also done covers for The New Yorker.) Wordplay is a hardcover comic for grades K-1 guaranteed to show how fun playing with language can be.

In its 30 pages, children (with perfectly round heads, a quirk of Brunetti’s style) learn from their teacher and parents about compound words.

Wordplay panel by Ivan Brunetti

The grammar lesson takes full advantage of the illustrated format by showing, for example, what a kid might imagine when hearing “housework”, with a house dusting. As the students think of more compound words, we’re shown multiple levels of language meaning. That also explains the terrific title.


I did wonder about the inclusion of old-fashioned, gender-role-based words like “mailman” and “milkmaid” that kids are either unlikely to hear or society’s moving away from. The later “handyman” seemed a much better choice.

Other than that, Wordplay was a cute way to learn about a certain type of language, with plenty of creative words and images to inspire imagination and learning. And unlike some of Toon’s other Level 1 books, this one is also a real comic, with word and thought balloons and great story flow. (The publisher provided a review copy.)


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