Why, Commas Really Do Make A Difference

Cover art of children's book Eats Shoots and Leaves
G.P. Putnam's Sons

When British author Lynne Truss's book for adults Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation was published, it became a bestseller, an unusual occurrence for a book that is all about punctuation. Now Lynne Truss has a delightful new children's picture book that is based on her bestseller. Eats, Shoots & Leaves: Why, Commas Really Do Make A Difference! takes a humorous look at how the placement of commas can totally change the meaning of a sentence.

The Focus of Eats, Shoots & Leaves

As Lynne Truss points out in the Introduction, "Commas can create havoc when they are left out or are put in the wrong spot, and the results of misuse can be hilarious." With humor, Truss emphasizes the importance of punctuation marks, specifically commas. Children who are learning how to punctuate their sentences will get a kick out of seeing what can go wrong when a comma is misused and how important it is to the meaning of a sentence to place commas correctly.

The Layout of Eats, Shoots & Leaves

Each set of facing pages contains the same sentence. One of the sentences is punctuated properly; in the other, the commas are in the wrong place, with hilarious results. Each sentence is printed in black ink, except for the commas, which are red, making them stand out in the sentence. Each sentence is illustrated with very funny, full-page pen and watercolor sketches by Bonnie Timmons.

For example, the sentence "Look at that huge hot dog!" shows a picnic scene with a man grilling a hot dog that is three times bigger than he is. The sentence "Look at that huge, hot dog!" shows a large, hot-looking dog slobbering over a kiddy pool as the little girl in it splashes him.

Learning with Eats, Shoots & Leaves

At the end of the book, there is a two-page, illustrated spread titled Why These Commas Really Do Make A Difference. For each set of sentences, there are thumbnails of the illustrations and an explanation of the function of the comma(s) in the sentences. For example, in the "Look at that huge hot dog!" sentence, the author points out that "Without a comma, huge modifies hot dog."

Teachers will enjoy using the book because it illustrates the importance of punctuation in a way that will engage students' interest. When I was a kid, I didn't see why punctuation, other than a period at the end of a sentence, mattered, and I suspect that many kids feel that way today. This book will change their minds. The funny sentences and illustrations will also help them to remember the points the author makes about commas.

The Author and Illustrator of Eats, Shoots & Leaves

Author Lynne Truss has a background as a literary editor, novelist, television critic, and newspaper columnist. She is also the author of a number of radio comedy dramas. According to her publisher, "Lynne Truss also hosted Cutting a Dash, a popular BBC Radio 4 series about punctuation. She now reviews books for the Sunday Times of London and is a familiar voice on BBC Radio 4."

An outgrowth of Lynn Truss's radio series about punctuation, Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation became a bestseller in England. In the United States, it has also become a major bestseller. The children's picture book version, Eats, Shoots & Leaves: Why, Commas Really Do Make A Difference!, has also proven popular. By September 2006, it had already been on the New York Times list of bestselling children's books for five weeks.

If the illustrations by Bonnie Timmons look somewhat familiar to you, it may be because you watched the TV series Caroline in the City. Timmons drew all of the cartoons for the NBC series. She has also done a lot of work on national advertising campaigns and has illustrated several other books.

Eats, Shoots & Leaves: My Recommendation

I recommend Eats, Shoots & Leaves: Why, Commas Really Do Make A Difference! for children 8-12. The book would also make an excellent gift for teachers, including home-schooling parents. (G.P. Putnam's Sons, A Division of Penguin Young Readers Group, 2006. ISBN: 0399244913)


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Your Citation
Kennedy, Elizabeth. "Why, Commas Really Do Make A Difference." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, thoughtco.com/eats-shoots-and-leaves-book-review-627443. Kennedy, Elizabeth. (2023, April 5). Why, Commas Really Do Make A Difference. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/eats-shoots-and-leaves-book-review-627443 Kennedy, Elizabeth. "Why, Commas Really Do Make A Difference." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/eats-shoots-and-leaves-book-review-627443 (accessed June 9, 2023).