This spring will see the publication of the first of a new series of books that readers of all ages (but mainly children ages 7 to 9) will be falling over their clumsy little selves to buy, borrow, or steal.... but those who do steal might get caught, somehow, by none other than the series hero, eleven-year old Richard “Dictionary” Green, a boy genius (a nerd, anyway), who uses his extensive knowledge of definitions, etymologies, pronunciation, syllabification, and more to solve troubling (and always relatable, if not outright familiar) word problems for his friends and relatives. Aided by Amber Tindall—a female sidekick with normal intelligence but more curves than a girl her age should have, owing to her fondness for milk products tainted with rBGH—Dictionary Green is poised to become the next best-loved protagonist [proh-tag-uh-nist] (from the Greek).
In the opening story of the collection, “Mean Dr. Green,” we meet the Green family—father Dr. Green, professor of Sociology at the community college; Mrs. Green (once a Ph.D. candidate in math herself, she left academia to raise children); Steven Green, the elder boy, a superheroes,-wizards,-and-pirates nut; and wunderkind Richard—as they sit down to dinner in their home on Butler Lane in the usually quiet incorporated village of Dandyville. Dr. Green tells the family about an interesting development at work—he has been accused of being a racist! Dr. Green’s good name (and career) can be salvaged only if he can persuade Dean Simmons that the word “niggardly” is perfectly acceptable, even if “parsimonious” might be a wiser choice. Can Dictionary Green come up with the necessary proof?
The second story, “Hungry, Angry... Murphy?,” gives us our first peek into Dictionary Green’s treehouse headquarters, from which he operates his private consulting business. If Amber, stationed on the ground, lets you climb the planks nailed into the trunk (the password is “esquivalience”), and if you’ve got ten dollars cash, then you may approach Dictionary Green’s makeshift desk (two wooden pop bottle crates on top of two plastic milk carton crates) to present your poser. What’s the third word in English that ends in -gry?! asks an exasperated Knucklehead Murphy, one of Dictionary Green’s school chums. “There is none!” Dictionary Green ultimately reveals! “Who’s next?”
In “Busted!,” Dictionary Green’s third case—involving a debate among rival neighborhood gangs over “presently” and “currently”—is interrupted by his father’s returning home with news that he has been given a disciplinary warning for making overtly sexual comments in class. Can our hero convince Dean Simmons that “boobies” and “tits” are birds? Can he even make the argument with a straight face?
In the fourth story (“Cross Words”), Dictionary Green dictates to Amber a strong letter to the puzzles editor for the metropolitan newspaper to which his parents subscribe, explaining that “heli-” is unequivocally not a prefix for “copter.”
Dr. Green is placed on disciplinary suspension after referring to a student who comes to class on crutches as “stoopéd” in “Stressed for Success.”
Mrs. Green almost faints dead away when she receives a note from Steven’s principal informing her that her elder son has been engaging in “excessively noisy mastication” in the cafeteria during his lunch period. Good thing Steven’s kid brother is around to clear up the confusion, in “Chew or False”!
When Dr. Green refers to Islam as “just the worst idea anyone has ever had” (in the final story of the book, “Allah Long the Watchtower”), he is summarily dismissed from his job, and the Green family is forced to leave Dandyville. They relocate to a hamlet in the more rural neighboring county. Dictionary Green discovers—through recreational research—that the name of the place in which he now lives is a very old Native American word for “land where the spirits of those slaughtered in cold blood by the white devil will return first to take vengeance on their murderers’ descendants, or anyone around not of pure Poospatuck ancestry.”
(In the epilogue, Dictionary Green starts at his new school, where the other students have little patience for his patronizing attitude toward them and he gets beaten up a lot, while his older brother looks the other way....)
The author of DICTIONARY GREEN SPELLS IT OUT is already hard at work on a follow-up volume (tentatively titled DICTIONARY GREEN ACCENTUATES THE POSITIVE). Readers will be able to look forward to a new book of adventures every four to six months!
What’s the good word? It’s DICTIONARY GREEN!
Matthew David Brozik wrote this and many other short humor pieces, which have been published in print and online by The New Yorker, Adult Swim, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Grin & Tonic, The Big Jewel, and no one.