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Calvin Gets the Last Word

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Calvin’s dictionary is proud to go wherever Calvin goes —the breakfast table, school, baseball practice, and home again — helping Calvin search for the perfect word to describe his super-annoying older brother. After looking all day, Calvin finally finds the word he’s looking for at bedtime. And when he does, the dictionary is as surprised as you will be.

32 pages, Hardcover

Published October 6, 2020

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About the author

Margo Sorenson

37 books18 followers
Fun ahead for young readers with Margo's two newest picture books, LITTLE CALABASH (Island Heritage, Fall 2020) and CALVIN GETS THE LAST WORD (Tilbury House, October 2020), which was featured in the New York Times Children's Books review. Margo's 30th book, YA/Adult novel SECRETS IN TRANSLATION set in Italy was released in 2018 by Fitzroy Books. Her 27th book, picture book SPAGHETTI SMILES was released in 2014 by Pelican Publishing. Margo Sorenson was born in Washington, DC, and spent the first seven years of her life in Spain and Italy, devouring books and Italian food. She finished her school years in California, graduating from the University of California at Los Angeles. After teaching high school and middle school and raising a family of two daughters, Margo is now a full-time writer, writing primarily for young people of all ages, toddlers through high schoolers. Margo enjoys writing for young readers since she believes they are ready for new ideas and experiences, and they really have fun "living" the lives of the characters in books. She enjoys meeting with her readers in school and library settings from Minnesota to California and Hawaii.

Besides winning recognition and awards for her books from various groups, including finalist for the Minnesota Book Award, nominations from the American Library Association and winning the Milken National Educator Award, Margo was invited to donate and archive her working papers with the internationally-known children's literature collection, the Kerlan Collection, at the University of Minnesota. After having lived in Hawaii, California, and Minnesota, Margo and her husband now live full-time in La Quinta, California. When she isn't writing, she enjoys visiting her grandchildren, playing golf, reading, watching sports, traveling, and hearing from her readers. Margo is represented by Dan Cramer of Flannery Literary Agency.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 56 reviews
Profile Image for Lyndie.
368 reviews70 followers
June 30, 2020
Super cute easy read about brotherly love and sibling rivalry. The story is essentially told from the point of view of the dictionary which is a cute little twist. The dictionary occumpanies Calvin everywhere is currently searching for the perfect word to describe his big brother. The book has a handful of terms that are featured in bold colors in hopes to catch a young readers eye and teach them a new word. I ABSOLUTLEY LOVE that it does this!

At its core its children book about the love of words and building your vocabulary. I think the books concept is stellar and just hands down a nice little read.

I recieved a digital copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Ivonne Rovira.
1,942 reviews200 followers
July 23, 2020
Logophile Calvin carries his dictionary everywhere he goes — even to a baseball game! Calvin’s older brother keeps playing pranks on him, and Calvin wants to get even. I dare not say anything else because the ending packs quite a surprise. I love this book, and my students will, too!

In the interest of full disclosure, I received this book from NetGalley, Myrick Marketing & Media, LLC, and Tillbury House Publishers in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Marcia.
Author 3 books26 followers
August 27, 2020
Calvin Gets the Last Word meets all the requirements of a fun, meaningful picture book. His dictionary as narrator plus the lovely detailed illustrations give a bird’s eye view of Calvin’s life. The importance of using correct words is especially essential for kids to learn since words can unite us and bring comfort. And using an incorrect one can lead to hurt and confusion even if that wasn’t the intention of the speaker. Love the surprise ending! Calvin’s search for perfect words all comes together to show what turns out to be most important in life.
Profile Image for Laura.
2,766 reviews82 followers
June 23, 2020
I love books that assume that kids want to learn new, longer, more descriptive words. This book tells the story of a younger brother trying to come up with a word to describe how he feels about his brother making him laugh just as his mouth is full of milk.

The story is essentially told from the point of view of the dictionary, by the way.

(I would have thought Calvin would have consulted a thesaurus instead of a dictionary, but it still all works)

So, while Calvin searches for just for the right word, the picture book illustrates the words he finds, but doesn't want to use. Or rather, the dictionary finds.

A cute story of love of language, and love for siblings, even if they do want to make you laugh so hard milk comes out of your nose.

Thanks to Netgalley for making this book available for an honest review.
Profile Image for Alice Kaltman.
Author 9 books40 followers
October 11, 2020
I adore Calvin and his quest to find just the right word to describe his annoying older brother, who, as older siblings often do, trips Calvin up every darn time! There's great sympatico between words and images in this charming book, and extra bonus: best inside jacket picture book design I've seen in a long time. Like having a book within a book. Get this gem for the young reader or about-to-be reader in your family.
Profile Image for Seema Rao.
Author 2 books47 followers
June 23, 2020
This book must have been queued up before the pandemic, but will certainly be helpful to families now. It's about emotions and reactions, and would be ideal for families learning to live through the uncertainty of today. The text and images are equally well done. Really solid book.

Thanks to Netgalley for the arc in exchange for an honest review.
1 review
October 28, 2020
Calvin Gets the Last Word is a fun book that teaches new words to young readers without being didactic with a sweet and tender twist ending. This book makes for a great gift and will be fun to read over and over again! If you’re an aspiring picture book writer, this book provides a great example of using mask voice to tell a story.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
586 reviews19 followers
October 23, 2020
Calvin needs to find a word to describe his brother, but he doesn’t want just any word; he wants the perfect word. This playful book is narrated by Calvin’s dictionary, and you won’t believe all the words you discover!

I’m using this book as a new mentor text for my middle school students for writing and vocabulary, as well as different perspectives in reading. It takes effort to find that “just right” description. Calvin Gets the Last Word is entertaining AND educational. You’ll enjoy this one!
7,500 reviews28 followers
September 4, 2020
I received an electronic ARC from Myrick Marketing & Media, LLC through NetGalley.
Calvin brings his dictionary everywhere with him. It's pretty beaten up from being on the spot when the action happens. So, the dictionary is telling its story for the readers. Sorenson slips in a new word and definition on almost every spread. Readers see the definitions in action through the illustrations and text. Great way to slip in new vocabulary. Love the ending after the pranks and jokes. The two brothers connect and spend time together as family. Fun read aloud for families or classes.
Profile Image for Storywraps.
1,968 reviews31 followers
July 9, 2020
This delightful unique book is narrated by a very tired dictionary. Why is he so exhausted? Calvin, his owner, is always searching for the proper word to describe his mischievious big brother.

Calvin takes his dictionary everywhere with him trying to find the perfect word. Which one would be apropos for a scallywag who tells a joke when your mouth is full of milk causing you to laugh so hard that the milk shoots all over the breakfast table? It's payback time. Calvin keeps probing the pages. Will he be successful?

Being someone who also loves words and working with words daily I can totally identify with Calvin. It's so important to choose the correct one. The author weaves large bold coloured words throughout the book that pop out at the reader. No, they are not a proper fit to describe his brother so Calvin presses on! Highlighting those select words hopefully will prod the reader to discover their mean which will increase their own vocabulary skills.

The illustrations are kid-friendly, full of expression and detail. I love this heartwarming book as it blends fun, education, imagination, and a love of family into the tale. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Daniel.
2,445 reviews38 followers
December 18, 2020
This review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 2.5 of 5

Calvin loves words. Really loves words. So much so, that Calvin, a young elementary school student, carries an encyclopedia around with him wherever he goes. Calvin wants the right word for things. He can find that right word in his dictionary ... for most things. But he can't quite figure out the right word for his rascally brother who makes him snort milk out his nose and maybe picks on him at times. But at home at night. with the two of them laughing over a prank Calvin manages to pull on his brother, the right word comes to him.

The book definitely has a cute theme and ends on the appropriately touching note, but for the most part, I really didn't find this very enjoyable.

The familial relationship between the brothers is definitely honest and true. I really like how this captures a child's life with siblings.

But the book is also teaching the reader/listener new words. These words are bold and in color, so we know these are the words to learn with the book. And these words are: Revenge, Mayhem, Bewilderment, Subterfuge, Courageous, Pulverize, Retaliation, Slumber, Prank, and Hilarity. Really? Six of the ten words are aggressive - typically toward another person. Are these really the words to be teaching young readers? They'll grow to know them, but I don't think I agree that these are the lessons to teach in a picture book.

And honestly, I was a little disheartened at the two-page spread (this is only a 30 page book) of the school bus. Using the chaos on the bus ("everyone is pushing and hollering and shouting, running up and down the aisle, throwing backpacks") for the word "mayhem" might be appropriate for the word, and while it's been a few years since my kids were school bus age, I know that in our area at least there has been a concentrated effort to not have mayhem on a bus for safety reasons. Running up and down the aisles on a moving bus? Is that still allowed? Could we not have had mayhem on a playground?

What rescues this book, somewhat, for me are the pictures. Mike Deas' art is perfect for this type of picture book. It is realistic but whimsical and actually manages to tone down the aggressiveness of the story. I love the cutaway view of the house at night. I could easily see my kids - pre-reading age - thumbing through this just for the art.

But if I was in a bookstore, looking for a new picture book to buy for my family, or for friends with children, being a lover of words, I would probably pick this up, give it a read, then put it back on the shelf and look for something else.

Looking for a good book? Calvin Gets the Last Word by Margo Sorenson, with art by Mike Deas, is a picture book that maybe unintentionally gives some inappropriate consideration to aggressive behaviors.

I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Kailey (Luminous Libro).
3,061 reviews455 followers
October 16, 2020
Calvin's older brother tells a funny joke right when Calvin takes a drink of milk, making Calvin squirt milk out of his nose at the family breakfast table. Calvin searches the dictionary for the perfect words to describe his annoying brother and plots a way to get his revenge.

I'm confused about the messages in this book. One minute Calvin is standing up to bullies who took a child's pencil case, not allowing them to tease a younger child. The next minute Calvin is pranking his older brother by dumping an entire cup of water on his head while his brother is sitting in bed reading. How is that any different than the bully who pranked the other kid by taking their pencil case? And then the two brothers laugh about it and sit on the wet bed looking up the word "Family" in the dictionary. And who is gonna get out dry pajamas for the brother, and change those sheets, and dry out that mattress? What a mean prank to sneak up behind someone and dump a glass of water on their head! It's way too destructive. I think it is supposed to come across as mischievous, but it is more malicious.

I don't understand this morality at all. Isn't "revenge" generally considered to be an evil thing? Why is it being applauded in a children's book? Maybe I'm taking it too seriously. Maybe I just don't understand the humor of this author. But it rubbed me the wrong way. I wouldn't want a child of mine learning to do nasty pranks like this to their siblings.

I like the concept of a kid who loves to learn new words and uses his large vocabulary to describe his world. I was a child who loved words and had a large vocabulary, so I identified strongly with the main character.

I LOVED the illustrations in this book! The art style is clean and fresh with beautiful colors. Each scene is interesting and funny, and adds a whole new layer to the story. Each page is full of energy and movement. The art is truly delightful from start to finish!

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a free and honest review. All the opinions stated here are my own true thoughts, and are not influenced by anyone.
Profile Image for Stephanie Bange.
1,602 reviews13 followers
October 6, 2020
A fun book of sibling rivalry and "getting even", with one a practical joker and the other a wordsmith.

Calvin pulls tricks on his brother just when he least expects them, causing embarrassment and anger. Calvin scours his dictionary to find just the right word to describe his brother's behavior. He explores ten "million dollar" words until he finally strikes gold with the eleventh word. (No spoilers here.)

Sorenson strikes just the right balance between the two brothers in this book. Having the dictionary give the point of view in this one is brilliant. There are no taking sides, no emotion. There is the only the objective observer.

Illustrations by Mike Deas are intriguing as their color palette is largely blues, grays, and greens, giving them a dark, at times sinister, appearance. Heavy black lines outline and shapes and add punch to each illustration. Deas makes use of multiple perspectives, including a view as if a fly on the wall and a view into the bedrooms of their house via the peeled away roof on a rainy night. It was intriguing to see the first ten words listed and defined as if written by Calvin on the front & back endsheets. (It should be noted that these boys are in a single-parent home, living with their father or father-figure.) There is no anger evident in Calvin or his actions - he really wants to find the best way to describe his brother's actions.

A great title to include in units on family and humor.

Recommended for PreSchool-grade 3.
Profile Image for Olivia.
3,140 reviews80 followers
October 25, 2020
See my full review here: https://www.yabookscentral.com/kidsfi...

CALVIN GETS THE LAST WORD is a cute picture book told from the perspective of Calvin's beloved dictionary. He is trying to come up with the perfect word for his big brother, who waits until he has a full mouth of milk to tell a funny joke. Throughout the day, his dictionary proposes the perfect words for different scenarios, but none of them are perfect for his brother. The book teaches new words while also celebrating family.

What I loved: This is a fun book that teaches new big words to children in a fun way. I love the twist of the dictionary being the one to tell the story. Although they prank each other, there is ultimately love between his brother and himself, and I love the good natured jokes/pranks that leave both of them smiling. I also appreciated the nice things Calvin does during the day for others, such as standing up for a girl on the bus.

What left me wanting more: As a small point, I wasn't a huge fan of the revenge Calvin plays on his brother for the milk joke - he dumps a glass of water on his sleeping brother. I think a better lesson would have been to not play revenge, but they both do laugh about it and it ends with family as the word of choice.

Final verdict: CALVIN GETS THE LAST WORD is an overall cute book about finding the right word and teaches new big words in the process.

Please note that I received a review copy. All opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Barbara.
13.2k reviews277 followers
January 2, 2021
Told from the point of view of Calvin's overworked dictionary, this picture book will appeal to word-lovers everywhere. Calvin is always searching for just the right word, which makes the dictionary come in handy. As he ponders what word might best sum up his mischievous older brother, the dictionary takes on some battle scars--a torn page, a food stain, even pencil markings. As he peruses the dictionary, various words catch his attention, but none of them seems to fit. The poor old dictionary is exhausted but perks up when Calvin finds the right word, after all. The illustrations show quite a lot of movement, including Calvin spitting up his food due to his amusement as well as images of Calvin with his nose buried in that book. Readers are probably expecting that Calvin will wreak some form of revenge on his brother, but they will be surprised when they discover the word that typifies the boy. While I enjoyed the anticipation of what the word would be and also loved having unusual words such as hilarity and mayhem employed in a picture book, the last word Calvin lands on was something of a letdown. Still, the cleverness of the book's title and the various vocabulary words introduced gives this picture book possible uses as a read aloud or humorous vocabulary lesson or even a writing prompt. The endpapers feature the words with a pronunciation key and definition.
Profile Image for Stephanie Tournas.
2,165 reviews21 followers
January 4, 2021
Well, this is a first for me – a book that is narrated by a dictionary! Calvin loves words so much that he carries his dictionary everywhere, which, it turns out, is very tiring for the dictionary. Especially since Calvin is trying constantly to come up with the right word to describe his rascally big brother. Is it revenge, when his brother makes him laugh so hard Calvin spews milk? Is it mayhem, a word Calvin thinks of when he’s on the noisy, chaotic school bus? Words occur to Calvin throughout the day at home, at school and at baseball practice, and in each case the meaning of the word is made clear by the context of text and illustrations. The book ends with a sweet scene, when Calvin plays a prank on his brother, and the word family makes it all okay.

The story features a family which presents as African American, and many diverse classmates. I especially love Deas’ depiction of his baby brother, a bald baby who is mesmerized by his big brothers’ antics. And I love that words and their meanings are so beloved by a kid that his dictionary has a speaking role! The endpapers give definitions of Calvin’s words, each one relating to his aim to describe his brother. The title is cute, and provides an opportunity to learn the double meaning of “having the last word.”
Profile Image for Jamie Bee.
Author 2 books91 followers
October 9, 2020
Building Vocabulary, From a Dictionary’s Viewpoint

Calvin loves words, so much so that he carries a small dictionary around with him everywhere, reading it constantly. The book is told from the dictionary's perspective, which I thought was fun. Throughout the day, certain events seem to land Calvin on a page with a word that relates to it, though I thought the author could have given a little better context for the words, as sometimes it felt like she was reaching a bit. Throughout this day, Calvin is trying to figure out the best word for his brother, who annoys him by telling jokes while Calvin is eating or drinking, making Calvin do a spit take. The final word that the dictionary(?) chose for his brother was a little disappointing, though the book did end on a better one. Even though this is a picture book, I felt it needed a little more development to really make it sing. I do love that it focuses on words and building vocabulary. If it inspires a child to do that, that would be a good thing!

I received a free copy of this book, but that did not affect my review.
11 reviews
August 10, 2020
Follow the adventures of Calvin and his trusty dictionary. The first word that comes to mind is not always the best word for the occasion, and the dictionary can help inspire readers and writers to expand their vocabulary. 'Calvin Gets the Last Word' would be a great asset to any classroom where students are encouraged to add to their vocabulary repertoire. Told from the perspective of a dictionary, readers are encouraged to hunt for just the right word to describe their situation. There are some fantastic words here that readers can add to their vocabulary vault. I think it would be super motivating for students to begin their own hunts for the precise word that fits their situations. Young readers will also appreciate the journey through Calvin's day - from spitting milk to riding the bus - and his encounter with his brother, it is a very relatable story line.

In this story, Calvin does get the last word - you will have to read it to find out what that word is.
Profile Image for Sandy Brehl.
Author 8 books131 followers
November 22, 2020
Calvin's interest in and exploration of finding the "just-right'word for dealing with his prankster brother really appealed to the word-nerd in me. The endpapers and text throughout clearly distinguish his vocabulary/definition from the narrative text. A favorite song I used while teaching is titled "USE A WORD" by Red Grammar.
Calvin's emotional reaction to being pranked is strong, but his effort to find the "just right" choice for reacting (and possibly teaching his brother a lesson) is a constructive way to insert some rationale and distance into a naturally impulsive pattern. For some kids, this will seem unrealistic, but the happy resolve of the brothers and their parents might encourage giving anything similar a chance.
Even if not, Calvin's approach incorporates humor, laughable scenes, and heartwarming relationships that will appeal to many readers, word-nerds or not.
Profile Image for Anne.
4,477 reviews41 followers
November 23, 2020
Calvin and his brother are pretty typical siblings - they squabble but they still love each other. Calvin has a dictionary that he uses to try to find the perfect word to describe his brother.The dictionary is the one telling the story, which is a cute twist. As Calvin tries to find the right word, a variety of words gets used until finally, at bedtime, he finds the perfect one. And it is not the one that you would think, based on all the previous possibilities.

I love the vocabulary extensions offered by this book as well as the sweet surprising ending. However, there was an overabundance of words centered around retaliation, revenge, mayhem, etc and the prank bordered on mean with a lot of mess. Perhaps worst, in the mind of this librarian, was the damage suffered by the dictionary throughout the story. Illustrations are well done and enhance the story.
Profile Image for Lynn.
2,861 reviews12 followers
February 6, 2021
“I’m Calvin’s dictionary, and I’m tired.” Why is Calvin’s dictionary telling this story? Why is it tired? Who is Calvin? This humorous vocabulary-building story introduces the reader to big words, such as mayhem, subterfuge and retaliation. Even though young readers might not remember these words, they will remember and possibly relate to the irritations of siblings.

Full-color illustrations mirror the text as well as give a deeper understanding of the big words used. Green and gray hues are dominant, but the brothers are in bolder colors, and the yellow-with-red-stripe dictionary is easy to locate on each page.

Great to use an introduction to dictionaries, or vocabulary-building, or what’s most important in “family”. Fun pairings could include “Tony Baloney” (Pam Munox Ryan, 2011), or “Word Collector” (Peter Reynolds, 2018).

Profile Image for Meradeth Houston.
Author 17 books279 followers
June 28, 2020
I am so glad I got to read this! It's positively adorable and wonderfully unique. I love that it's told from the dictionary's perspective, which is a great twist. Plus, there are some fun words to learn, woven in perfectly to the story. Calvin's relationship with his brother is authentic and made me giggle. Little boys with milk squirting out their noses? Totally funny and accompanied by illustrations that made me smile, and I know kids will crack up! Speaking of illustrations, Mike Deas does a great job bringing the household and school to life, with great little details readers will enjoy exploring right alongside the new words. Overall, a wonderful book, heartfelt and fun, and perfect for classroom read or at home with some siblings :)
Profile Image for Monica Exley.
Author 28 books7 followers
July 26, 2020


I have read many books but none that have been from the perspective of a book before. Such a delightful book. I enjoyed reading this creative and lovely book so much. Your children will learn some fun new words and their definitions as it applies to those words. Great perspective and amazing story.
#mikedeas #monicasbookreviews #creativebookstagram #creativebooks #powerhousebooks #childrensbookstore #kidsbooks #smartkids #readingnook #readingfun
#calvingetsthelastword #margosorenson
Profile Image for Katheryne.
245 reviews10 followers
September 27, 2020
Calvin Gets the Last Word has a great concept, I love that it is told from the perspective of the dictionary. I appreciate the introduction of vocabulary words. However, I believe it could be developed a little more. More introduction to the family and brother at the beginning, more connectivity between each scene, and more context clues for the new vocab words, and this book would be a hit. Thanks to the publisher, Tilbury House, and NetGalley for the ARC to review. All opinions are my own.
#calvingetsthelastword #netgalley
Profile Image for Kaitlyn.
1,222 reviews
October 31, 2020
I received this ebook from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I love how this book is unique and told from the dictionary's perspective. The pages are all tattered and have things spilled on them, but that's because Calvin uses his dictionary all the time for different words and situations. I love how this book introduces new words to kids that they probably haven't used before, and gets kids thinking about what other words there may be out there yet to discover in a dictionary.
6,286 reviews67 followers
June 22, 2020
3,5/5. A children book about the love of words, building vocabulary and the dictionary. I totally respect what it try to accomplish, and it does it fairly well, but I think that the story may be put aside a bit too much, I would have like the story to be a bit more solid and entertaining for children, even if that mean, cut a bit of the «educative» part. I did like that the narrator was a dictionary that was both funny and original.
1,385 reviews6 followers
July 19, 2020
I requested and received this book from Margo Sorenson and Myrick Marketing & Media, LLC through NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

I really like that this book introduces young children to larger more complicated words in a fun way. Calvin is trying to find the perfect word for his brother, so we hear about the search from the dictionary. This story was really cute and fun to read. I love the ending.
Profile Image for Medeia Sharif.
Author 21 books447 followers
August 20, 2020
Calvin’s brother is constantly pranking him, telling jokes while Calvin is eating or drinking so he spurts things out of his mouth or nose. With his trusty dictionary always with him, Calvin tries to find the best word to describe his brother. The story is told in the dictionary’s point of view, by the way. This is a great book for children to explore words, feelings, and sibling relationships. I read this via NetGalley, courtesy of the publisher.
Profile Image for April Gray.
1,336 reviews7 followers
December 21, 2020
A cute story of a boy and his dictionary. Calvin carries his dictionary (the narrator of the story) with him always, trying to find the right word to describe his brother. Each illustration spread takes us through a possible word, with lots if detail and action to keep the reader busy, but none of the words feels quite right. Finally one night, Calvin sneaks into his brother's room, to share the perfect word with him. Really fun and sweet!

#CalvinGetstheLastWord #NetGalley
Profile Image for Tina Athaide.
Author 6 books39 followers
July 19, 2020
Our narrator, the dictionary, is a logophile and the perfect companion for Clavin who is in desperate need to find a word that describes his pain of a brother. The story, colourful text, and gorgeous illustrations will captivate young readers.
Preorder this book now and save a space on your classroom bookshelves.

Thank you NetGalley and Tilbury house for the e-arc.
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