• Happy birthday Jane Cutler (Guttersnipe).
  • It’s the birth date of Harry Behn (1898-1973) The Faraway Lurs, Wilson Rawls (1913-1984), Where the Red Fern Grows, and L. Leslie Brooke (1862-1940), Johnny Crow’s Garden.
  • Happy birthday to the United States Post Office, established in 1789. Read Dear Mr. Blueberry by Simon James.
  • In 1906, U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt proclaims Devil’s Tower in Wyoming the first National Monument. Read A Blizzard Year by Gretel Ehrlich.
  • It’s the American Kennel Club’s Responsible Dog Ownership Day. Read Ribsy by Beverly Cleary.
  • Banned Books Week begins the last week of September. Check out the list of the top 100 banned novels of the 20th Century—now all considered classics.

What if we had the English language as we know it, but no punctuation had been invented? The sentences you are reading now would be nearly impossible to comprehend. The importance of punctuation in communication lies at the heart of today’s holiday, the annual National Punctuation Day. For the organizers, today serves as a “celebration of the lowly comma, correctly used quotation marks, and other proper uses of periods, semicolons, and the ever-mysterious ellipsis.”

If you want to get children ages five through ten thinking about the importance of commas and semicolons, pick up Robin Pulver’s Punctuation Takes a Vacation, illustrated by Lynn Rowe Reed. Day after day, reliable punctuation marks show up in Mr. Wright’s classroom—even though they get erased and ignored. So in a move to get more respect, the question mark, exclamation point, comma, period, colon, quotation marks, and apostrophes head out the door. Now the class is in big trouble—absolutely nothing makes sense without these lowly creatures. Soon postcards start to be delivered from Take-a-Break Lake. “Do you miss us?….Guess who?” a typical one reads.

As they ride on water tubes and eat picnic lunches, each punctuation mark sends an appropriate greeting, challenging the students and reader to guess who created it. Although the students can figure out who sent the postcards, they can’t write anything back that makes sense. Eventually returning to a much more grateful group of kids, the punctuation marks pose some difficult questions like “Who did you miss the most?” That may be impossible to answer unless you have a favorite mark that you cannot live without. My personal favorite: the colon. In a totally lighthearted and funny manner, the book explores the importance of punctuation in all of our lives. A list of punctuation rules rounds out a book that reads aloud beautifully and works both in school and home settings. I know of one kindergarten girl who insisted that this be read as a bedtime story every night. I wonder what punctuation mark she liked best.

It does not however discuss the “ever-mysterious ellipsis.” I don’t know if anyone has ever done that in a children’s book. Stayed tuned—I’ll let you know if I find one that does.

Here’s a page from Punctuation Takes a Vacation:


Originally posted September 24, 2011. Updated for .

Tags: Humor, School
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for Punctuation Takes a Vacation


  1. Star says:

    Ahhh…a children’s book for grammar lovers! Something tells me this mom will adore this book! I’m requesting this from the library immediately! The illustrations are appealing, as well!

    And it’s almost Banned Books Week! Thank you for the reminder! Time to dust off all of my favorite banned books!

  2. suzi w. says:

    ooh this looks like fun i will be in children’s this afternoon i’ll check to see if we own it

    (yeah, life without punctuation would just be one long run-on sentence.)

  3. Anita says:

    Star: Yes, we will be covering some of those great banned books on the Almanac. Nothing beats reading a book someone doesn’t want you to read.

  4. G.Perry says:

    A book that helps a child believe in being able to understand and own grammar at a personal level, is something important, and more important to me that most would guess.

    This reminds me of a line from Finding Forester where Jamal talks about a one-comma student (Million dollars) as relates to prejudice against him..

    The birthday of Wilson Rawls is mentioned. Rawls and my uncle grew up across the street from each other and were boyhood, and lifetime friends. Rawls would explode through the front door of my grandparent’s house like a miniature tornado (it was tornado country) looking for two things. My uncle Leo, and food.

  5. G.Perry says:

    I forgot to mention that I absolutely love it when I come across a “Banned Book” table in a book store.

    I start listing how many of those books I haven’t read, that I plan to.

  6. Katy W. says:

    As a Classics Major, I think having no punctuation would be fantastic and rather Roman. :)

    This book looks like a fantastic read, and I’ll have to hunt it down…..and read it aloud in one long breath!

  7. Robin Pulver says:

    Thank you so much for posting this, Anita, and for reminding me about National Punctuation Day!

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