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Book Review

This slice-of-life story by Monalisa DeGross, with illustrations by Cheryl Hanna, is published by HarperCollins Children's Books, a division of HarperCollins Publishers and is written for kids ages 7 to 10. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Donavan Allen is a third-grader. Many of his friends in class collect things, such as baseball cards, buttons, coins and comics. One day, after reading the word nutrition and liking the feel of it on his tongue, Donavan decides to collect words. At the end of each day, he writes his new words in purple ink on yellow slips of paper and puts them in a jar. He chooses words that sound smart, silly or mysterious. He picks others because he's heard them uttered in stores or on the radio.

When his word jar begins to overflow, Donavan seeks advice on what to do next. His mom suggests he get a bigger jar, but he's not sure that will solve the problem. His teacher says he should start his own dictionary, but he thinks that will take too long. Dad suggests filing his words in a box alphabetically, but Donavan is still afraid he will run out of room. As he lies in bed pondering the problem, he feels certain Grandma will have an idea for him. He prepares to visit her bright and early the next day, but Mom says no. Donavan's little sister, Nikki, is sick, and Donavan needs to watch her. Dad is in the basement working on things for his new business and cannot be disturbed, and Mom has to run to the printer to get Dad's business cards made. Donavan tries to entertain Nikki while making her stay in bed. Nikki suggests Donavan share some of the words from his word jar and tell her what they mean. When the word lullaby is picked, he sings her to sleep.

Finally, he's able to visit Grandma at her dismal senior living apartment building. She collects things, too, anything given to her by people she cares about. She suggests Donavan give his words to others, but he's still not convinced. In the lobby, he realizes he's forgotten to invite Grandma to dinner and goes back to ask her. By the time he returns to the lobby after asking her, Grandma's formerly gloomy neighbors are laughing and talking, waving words from the jar that Donavan accidentally left on the counter. Donavan is upset and tries to push through the crowd to get his words back. Then he overhears the conversations around him. He realizes his words are inspiring people and encouraging them to talk to one another. The residents are unusually lively and happy. Donavan feels warm inside. Grandma gives him his grandpa's old cigar humidor jar to use as he begins a new word collection. On a slip of paper, she writes the word serendipity. She tells him this means “a happy accident.” Donavan is excited about collecting new words in his new jar and figuring out how to give them away.

Christian Beliefs


Other Belief Systems


Authority Roles

Donavan's mother watches over the family, preparing healthy meals and keeping the kids on schedule. She is pleased by Donavan's growing word collection. Grandma praises him for it as well. Donavan's father, who is busy preparing to open his own roofing business, takes time to discuss Donavan's dilemma. Mom, Dad, Grandma and Donavan's teacher all listen attentively and encourage him to think through his problem carefully.





Discussion Topics

If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:

  • What types of things do Donavan's friends and family members collect?
  • What do you or your friends and family collect?
  • What would you like to collect if you could?
  • What would you do with this collection?

  • What does Donavan discover about the power of words?

  • Why does he decide to give his words away rather than try to get them back?
  • What can you do for others, or give to others, to brighten their lives?

  • What are some of your favorite words?

  • Why do you like them?
  • How have you used them?

  • Who does Donavan go to for advice?

  • What advice is he given?
  • What convinces him of the best advice to follow?
  • Who gives him that advice?
  • Who do you go to for advice?
  • What advice have you taken from this person?

Additional Comments/Notes

This review is brought to you by Focus on the Family, a donor-based ministry. Book reviews cover the content, themes and world-views of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

You can request a review of a title you can't find at reviewrequests@family.org.

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