Marvin Terban and His Books
Marvin Terban is best known for making the peculiarities of the English language fun and easy for children to learn. Many of his books began as grammar games he used in his classroom at Columbia Grammar and Preparatory School in New York City. He has been teaching for over 40 years, with some breaks for writing and speaking engagements.
He was born in 1940 in Chelsea, Massachusetts. He started writing for the public in high school, beginning with a column for the local paper, and moving on to become the editor of his school newspaper and literary magazine. He received his higher education at Tufts and Columbia Universities. He has spoken about the English language at schools across America and as far away as Israel and Japan. Two of his books have been made into computer games. He also wrote two books for teachers with his wife, Karen, who is a special education teacher. All in all, Terban has done much to make learning English much more entertaining.
But that’s not all. He also acts in local community theater plays to raise money for charity. He’s even had small parts in movies directed by Woody Allen. (He played the part of a party guest in Alice, and the part of a seder guest in Crimes and Misdemeanors)
He has directed plays in summer camps for children in the Catskill Mountains, as well. He and Karen live in New York City across from Central Park. They have two adult children and two cats.
Click here to learn even more about Marvin Terban and to see his English reference books for young people that I have not reviewed here. He knows how to help make learning English a lot more fun. These books would also help those learning to speak English as a foreign language.
Marvin Terban’s Books
It Figures!: Fun Figures of SpeechPunching the Clock: Funny Action IdiomsEight Ate: A Feast of Homonym RiddlesThe Dove Dove: Funny Homograph RiddlesMad as a Wet Hen!: And Other Funny IdiomsToo Hot to Hoot: Funny Palindrome RiddlesYour Foot’s on My Feet!: And Other Tricky NounsGuppies in Tuxedos: Funny Eponyms
Reviews of Marvin Terban Books
Cover images are from my own books, which may be older editions than are linked to above. I still have some of these in inventory. If you don’t see a link beside a book reviewed below, you will find one with the book images above
The Dove Dove: Funny Homograph Riddles This book contains riddles like the following: “Divide the costumes into different piles.” To find the answer, one must replace the ‘divide’ and ‘different’ with a word that is pronounced in two different ways: in this case, “separate.” (There are some pictorial clues in the book, but these riddles are challenging enough to use with secondary students. ) These can make nice puzzles to put on the board for students to figure out as they come into class, or they could be used as bonus questions on vocabulary tests. 64 pages. BTH-2758.
Eight Ate: A Feast of Homonym Riddles. Illustrated by Giulio Maestro. Houghton Mifflin, 1982. Contains riddles that can be answered by a pair or trio of homonyms. Example: “What is a large animal with thick fur but no clothes on?” Give up? It’s a bare bear, of course. Again, the pictures would have given you visual clues. This book is not quite as challenging as Dove Dove, so it can be used more easily with junior age children. They could actually be used as cues for dictations on spelling tests to see if students can use the words properly, and these riddles should definitely help students remembers the correct spelling for each use. No page numbers. BTH-2756.
Funny You Should Ask: How to Make Up Jokes and Riddles With Wordplay, illustrated by john O’Brien. In this book you can learn an innovative way to interest your students in vocabulary exercises. Encourage them to use different kinds of word play to write or speak their own jokes and riddles, as this book directs. 64 pages. BTH-2751.
Guppies in Tuxedos: Funny Eponyms, Illustrated by Giulio Maestro. Houghton Mifflin, 1988. This book traces the origins of 100 eponyms — words derived from the names of people or places. 64 pages. BTH-2752.
In a Pickle and Other Funny Idioms. Illustrated by Giulio Maestro. Houghton Mifflin, 1983. This humorous look at common idioms shows them accompanied by pictures of the literal meaning of the figurative expressions. 64 pages. BTH-2753.
It Figures. Houghton Mifflin. This book explains figurative language and poetic techniques. 64 pages. BTH-2760.
Mad as a Wet Hen and Other Funny Idioms. Illustrated by Giulio Maestro. Houghton Mifflin, 1987. This book focuses on idioms having to do with animals, body parts, feelings, colors, food, and hats. Each idiom is accompanied by a humorous literal interpretation of the idiom. 64 pages. BTH-2757.
Punching the Clock: Funny Action Idioms, illustrated by Tom Huffman. Houghton Mifflin, 1990. This book contains the meaning of several idioms which focus on verbs such as ‘raising taxes,’ ‘hold your horses,’throwing one’s weight around,’ and about 97 more. Most are accompanied by humorous illustrations of their literal meanings. 64 pages. BTH-2759.
Too Hot to Hoot: Funny Palindrome Riddles. Illustrated by Giulio Maestro. Houghton Mifflin, 1985. These challenge my brain. Beginning with three letter words, these riddles with picture hints get progressively harder as one has to come up with words and phrases spelled the same forwards and backwards. 64 pages. BTH-2754.
Your Foot’s on My Feet and Other Tricky Nouns. Illustrated by Giulio Maestro. Houghton Mifflin, 1986. This book explores the plural forms of 90 irregular nouns through humorous rhymes and tongue twisters. It covers nouns which change their endings, nouns that change in the middle, nouns that don’t change at all, nouns that have more than one plural, and oddities. 62 pages. BTH-2755.
If you have questions, please feel free to contact me.