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Grammar-land, or Grammar in Fun for the Children of Schoolroom-shire Review by Donna CamposM. L. Nesbitt
Yesterday's Classics, LLC
PO Box 3418
Chapel Hill, NC 27515
Grammar-land is a glossy soft cover book of 109 pages. It is an unabridged republication of a text originally published by Houlston and Sons in 1877. Chapters are of a good length--long enough to enjoy and short enough to keep the interest of the reader or listener. The chapters are titled according to their parts of speech, with eighteen chapters total. Grammar topics that are often difficult to understand (such as "Little Article," Adverbs, Conjunctions, and the Possessive Case) are well explained in story terms.
The entire book is the story of a court case between the various parts of speech and the words they claim as their own. For example, Noun and Verb argue over whether their words are the most important words in a sentence, and everyone finally agrees a sentence must have a verb. The many discussions, arguments, and explanations during the court meetings are very educational, and they present the information in a fun way. The "friends from Schoolroom-shire" are given writing assignments at the end of each chapter. Answers are not provided, but the assignments can be worked out easily enough with a little guidance to reiterate the particular part of speech. The assignments get progressively longer and more difficult as you progress through the book.
The parts of speech are characters in the story, and they have attributes to reveal their purpose or job in speech. Little Article is represented by "a ragged little fellow" who cries bitterly when his two little words (a and an) are used as if they belonged to Mr. Noun. The story is very nicely done and is memorable. "Pronoun" is defined as "instead of noun," and the example of the correct usage within the story was excellent and made it easy to understand. The fifth chapter, which is entirely an assignment, includes a story of a monkey being curious and firing a cannon, which kills him: ". . . the poor little monkey fell down dead." Parents may need to use tact as they read this story to younger children. Mr. Adjective is comically called "the veriest gossip that ever lived." He is also portrayed as a bit of a trouble maker because of his many negative descriptive words, but he speaks up for himself to point out his positive descriptions. He qualifies nouns and pronouns. Conjugation of verbs is thoroughly explained--so well that my ten-year-old gained a better understanding even though he is only just beginning to write his own stories because of his developmental delays. Mr. Pronoun's offers an explanation that helps a child identify first person as the person speaking, second person as the one being spoken to, and third person as the person who is not in attendance but is being talked about. Chapter seventeen, "Active Verbs Govern the Objective Case" is one of the longer chapters at seven pages. It helps children learn to identify Nominative or Objective case by asking "who?" or "what?" (before the verb for Nominative and after the verb for Objective case). The chapter then provides discussion to facilitate their correct usage. Chapter eighteen closes the book with an explanation of Possessive case and a very clear representation of Prepositions governing the Objective case without using a Possessive at all. In the final assignment, the Nine Parts of Speech are represented in a story for the people of Schoolroom-shire to read through and determine which Part of Speech is given the most marks--by being used. I suggest that parents make a list of the various rules for the correct use of the parts of speech so that the final assignment is more easily understood.
We enjoyed this book, and it will definitely take several readings to truly grasp the information within the pages. Grammar-land is an incredible story, and it actually helped me, even as an adult, to better understand the proper use of many of our most commonly used words and phrases. The story lends an opportunity for children to act out or draw the story in order to better understand the information. And reading aloud was incredibly fun. My seventeen-year-old enjoyed reading to her ten-year-old brother while my four-year-old napped. The story is just interesting enough to keep the attention of the listener, although I'll admit at times I had to stop and explain a few things. The book was originally written in the 1870s, and times certainly have changed. We would have loved to have the assignments presented more as official assignments, but they are presented within the story well enough to be completed. And determining the accuracy of completed assignments actually made the book more fun and interesting as we corrected together, which is the best kind of learning for our family. Humor and proper behavior is sprinkled beautifully throughout the pages. I would encourage any homeschooling family with a desire to learn more about the parts of speech to read Grammar-land and complete the assignments. Both parent and child will gain a greater understanding of the written and spoken word--and truly enjoy doing so!