Tohby Riddle The Greatest Gatsby: a visual book of grammar Viking/Penguin, 25 March 2015, $24.99 (pbk), 112pp., ISBN 9780670078684
The introduction is wonderful and deserves to be quoted: ‘Like electricity or the soul, grammar is invisible. But when it is present among a group of words, language comes to life…’.The author explains that grammar is order, that it makes sense, and that it is structure because when words are put together well they carry meaning. The following pages show classes of words, phrases and clauses. Then the author develops the concept of sentences and how they should be formed and can be extended.
As a source of information about basic English grammar rules this is a really valuable resource. The author seems to have the ability to anticipate questions or difficulties learners and users of the language experience. He finds ways to explain how English grammar works, what it does, and also why.
The illustrations and fonts are a quirky combination of the Riddle’s own line drawings and a variety of images developed from many sources. These often appear to adopt Victorian and Edwardian styles configured in a contemporary manner. This aspect of the publication, as well as its 18 x 18cm case bound dimensions, gives it a totally different look from a regular text book. It is unusual even for a general interest book. Though it is visually intriguing The Greatest Gatsby relies on sophisticated compilation and muted colours. It encourages a reader’s close attention to construe the visual and textual information.
reviewed by Elspeth Cameron