by Laya Steinberg
Illustrated by Debbie Harter
• Children’s Round Table 2X 2 Reading List selection--2004
Top 20 books recommended for children age 2 to grade 2
• Junior Library Guild List--2003
• Houghton Mifflin Pre-K Educational Series Big Book
About the book:
Author Laya Steinberg joins forces with award winning illustrator Debbie Harter with the irresistible story
of Thesaurus Rex, a playful young dinosaur who has a way with words. Children will delight in following
the lively character as he bounces, jumps, springs and flies through the colorful pages, all the while intro-
ducing them to the wide world of synonyms. Even the most active young audiences will sit still to watch
Thesaurus Rex turn vocabulary building into a fun-filled adventure.
Q. What inspired this playful story?
A. I was writing another story and consulted an old Webster's Thesaurus I had found at a yard sale. As I
read the synonyms out loud it occurred to me that the wonderful sounds of alliteration and rhyme such as
"slither, slid, slide and glide" would make a wonderful children's book. Thus Thesaurus Rex was born.
Q. What is your favorite thing about writing? What is your least favorite?
A. My favorite thing about writing is asking myself the question "What if?" and then letting my imagina-
tion explore the possibilities of a new story idea or concept, like "What if we could turn into any animal
we wished?" My least favorite thing about writing is spelling. When I was a child I was taught a new
experimental learn-to-read program that made learning spelling difficult. I still rely heavily on my computer
Q. What advice would you give to young authors?
A. Read, read, read. Write as much or as little as you have time for but write everyday as a habit, like
brushing your teeth. Trust that in time your own voice will show through in your work, and that everything
you write is valuable both as a source of ideas for the future and as a learning experience.
Q. Is the thesaurus your favorite writing tool? What other tools do you use regularly?
A. My imagination is my favorite writing tool. It's like planting a garden with the knowledge that tiny
seeds will grow into beautiful and varied flowers. Using a thesaurus is like putting fertilizer on my garden.
It helps the story grow and become stronger. I also use revision as an essential tool. That's when I go
back and reread what I've written and try to improve the language and vocabulary to make my writing
the best it can be. The thesaurus comes in handy then also. Reading your writing out loud helps you to
hear when a sentence is awkward or doesn't sound right.
Q. What can your fans look forward to next?
A. I have many projects in the works, from a picture book about seeds to a couple of middle-grade and
young adult novels.
Without showing the children the books ask: Raise your hand if you ever heard the word “rex” before?
How do we learn words we don’t know?
Make a list of ten items found in the room. Then, with a partner, try to brainstorm ten other words which
begin with the same letter or sound.
Questions to consider:
1. What is Thesaurus Rex doing during his day? Which part would you like to join him on?
2. Did you know there were so many synonyms for common words? Why do you think there are so many
words for something? Do these words mean the exact same thing or are they just similar?
3. Can you find the words that rhyme? Which pair is your favorite?
4. Do you know what a thesaurus is? Why do you think a writer might use one?
5. Describe Thesaurus Rex. What kind of friend do you think he would be? Why?
6. Did you learn any new words? Which ones? How do you know what a word means without looking it
up in a dictionary?
7. Which picture is your favorite? Why? What shapes do you see in it?
8. It says that Thesaurus Rex “Chomp! He likes his dinner raw.” What does this mean? Do you like to eat
your dinner raw? Do you prefer any raw foods? Which ones?
9. Would you want to baby-sit Thesaurus Rex? Why or why not? What would you do together?
10. How many times does Thesaurus Rex appear in the book? How many eyes? How many feet are in
the story? How many bathtubs?
Verbs are the actions in a sentence. They are what people or animals DO during each day. Make a list of
at least ten verbs that you’ll be doing this week. Then, with a partner, try to think of other verbs that might
go with the ones you have.
What other verbs go with sleep?
dream, roll over, wake up, stretch, yawn.
Illustrate the words you’ve listed. This makes an excellent bulletin board with the caption: VERBS: It’s what
Fill out the following chart about your word knowledge from the book. Write sentences on the back for at
least five of the words you know!
Words: I can say this word: I can tell what it means: I can use it in a sentence (yes/no)
Graph the answers to question # 10 from the discussion guide.
Sing the following song together:
Read, read, read some books
new ones every day
learn new words, like synonym
then go out and play!
Write, write, write new words
something fresh and new
just like Thesaurus Rex
a synonym or two!
Two paper plates; Brad; colored pencils or crayons; thesaurus/synonym finder
Create a synonym wheel to replace common words in your writing (like nice, good, fun, bad, gross).
Cut out a pie shape from one of the paper plates. Then, stack the plates so the one with the piece missing
is on top. Choose a common word that gets overused in your writing (like the word: said) and put on the
top plate in large bold letters. Then, trace pie shape until the bottom plate looks like it been cut and ready
to eat! In each pie, add a synonym and an illustration. These plates can be displayed around the room
and kids can access them for an instant thesaurus!
Phonemic Awareness Slam!
Divide the class into two equal groups. Then, similar to a spelling match, have students come up to the
front. Present each pair with a word. Kids volley words that begin, end or have the same vowel sound as
the one presented back and forth until someone can’t think of a new one. Winners advance to the next
Word Family Charades
Put all the following words on individual cards and have the children play charades to guess the words
from the book:
stretching, reaching, extending, bending, mending, sip, swallow, swill, searching, poking, romp, skid,
slide, stuck, shout, scrub, munch, bounces, tucked, bundled.
Take-home Fun: Word Search
This guide was created by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer, a reading specialist and author of the book Sketches from a Spy Tree.
Visit her website to find over a hundred guides to children’s literature. http://www.tracievaughnzimmer.com
Visit Laya’s webpage at www.layasteinberg.com.
Copyright 2006 Tracie Vaughn Zimmer and Laya Steinberg Illustration from Thesaurus Rex, copyright©2003 Barefoot Books