Camp Fossil Eyes

Camp Fossil Eyes: Digging for the Origins of Words

Annick Press (2009)

“This fun book, with hip illustrations by Kathryn Adams, will encourage children to see language as a window into past and present cultures.”Montreal Review of Books

“Mark Abley, the author of one other children’s book (Ghost Cat) and two excellent adult books on language, brilliantly combines his talents in Camp Fossil Eyes … Abley’s key point is that the English language is still in a constant state of flux and evolution. As one who thoroughly embraces this dynamism, he is perhaps the ideal person to present the topic to a generation that picks up new words as easily as it does colds.”
Quill & Quire

Fifteen-year-old Jill and her 13-year-old brother Alex are off to summer camp. But instead of spending their days swimming and canoeing, they’re hiking a bizarre badlands region filled with words that are fossilized in rock. Like it or not (and at first, Jill doesn’t), the pair are on a journey of discovery.

Making their way up hills, ridges, spurs, mounds and mountains of fossilized words, from ancient Greece (catastrophe, demon, gorilla) and the language of the Goths (heathen, home, haunt) to Dutch (cookie, pickle, booze) and Persian (paradise, checkmate), they learn the surprising origin of dozens of expressions. They also discover the history of English and the sheer joy of language.