Wednesday, March 13, 2019


Written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld

(Scholastic Press, 2013)

Such a fun book! There. I did it. I went ahead a used an exclamation mark. You should know that I try to use this punctuation sparingly. Even after my fourth cup of coffee. I just feel it can be overused, especially by excitable folks who put two, three or many more together in a row. As if Hello!!! tops my Hello!


Exclamation Mark is a breezy read, a clever sentence or two on each spread. One poor exclamation mark feels very different in a community of periods. Alas, he stands out when all he (why not she?) wants to do is fit in. “It seemed like the only time he didn’t stand out was when he was asleep.” Here, Lichtenheld draws a row of sleeping periods and a reclining exclamation mark, his stick part horizontal instead of vertical.

As with so many characters in children’s books, being different doesn’t feel special to exclamation mark. It interferes with a desire to belong and to share things in common. Then one day he meets a question mark, a character who barrages exclamation mark with—What else?—a series of questions.

Do you like frogs?
What’s your favorite ice cream?
When’s your birthday?
Know any good jokes?
Do you wanna race to the corner?

On and on it goes until exclamation mark is forced to truly apply himself and utter an exclamation. And there it is. A sense of purpose. Exclamation mark is elated. He begins exclaiming more and more. By golly, there is value in being different.

The text of the book is set against pages designed to look like interlined notebook paper, a simple touch that kids will find familiar and inviting. Tom Lichtenheld, the acclaimed illustrator of such books as Shark vs. Train and Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site, has a challenge in bringing character to periods, exclamation marks and question marks, but he pulls it off. (This is the same guy who created a book with a small cloud as a main character.) The late Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s sparing text is as witty as ever. The talents of author and illustrator mesh together beautifully.

While the book is pure enjoyment, it also can be reread as a playful way to help children understand when to use each of the three featured punctuation marks. As a teacher, I would recreate each character and magnetize them for the classroom whiteboard, writing sentences and having volunteers add the proper punctuation. I might even have kids create three flashcards with these marks. For quick practice, someone could offer a sentence and classmates could hold up the correct flashcard as end punctuation. Even if kids don’t immediately improve punctuation in their own writing, the book and a bit of follow-up can raise awareness.

It’s a good book. Find it! What are you waiting for?

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