David Astle
AUD $14.99

How to be a champion word puzzler in 20 quick bites! Packed with word puzzles, tongue twisters and brain teasers, this book will give readers all the ingredients they need to solve cryptic crosswords.

Kids of a certain age become obsessed with crossword puzzles: what are they? how do they work? when can I solve one all on my own? Word wizard David Astle has come up with a sneaky way to introduce children to the mechanics of cryptic crossword puzzles, by taking them through different kinds of wordplay - anagrams, pangrams, spoonerisms, tongue-twisters, homophones - before presenting them with crossword puzzles to solve using everything learnt so far. 'DA' puns and word plays abound, making this the word nerd's bible of wordy trickery and puzzling.

Author bio:

David Astle is a full-time word nerd. Many will know him as the dictionary man on the TV show Letters and Numbers. Or maybe just DA, the devious crossword-setter in the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age. He also devises a weekly 'Wordplay' newspaper column, plus a newsy anagram game on Sunday radio. Between puzzles, he's written half a dozen wordy-nerdy books for adults, including Riddledom, Cluetopia and Puzzled.

Category: Children's non-fiction
ISBN: 9781760113575
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Imprint: A & U Children
Pub Date: December 2015
Page Extent: 264
Format: Book
Age: 9 - 13
Subject: Children's non-fiction

Downloadable Activities

Teachers Reviews

As one who loves words, I will confess to spending long road trips in my childhood devising crosswords for my sisters to solve – don’t worry, it was a reciprocal thing!

Wordburger, written by David Astle, is a small book full of different ways to play with words. Adult readers will recognize the author’s name as the person behind the crosswords in the Age and Sydney Morning Herald newspapers. For younger readers, this may be the first time they have met this self-confessed ‘word nerd’.

The book is initially similar in content and layout to books such as Dubosarsky’s The Word Spy. It has short, interesting chapters on many word related topics. Topics include features of grammar, etymology, tongue-twisters and so on. Wordburger moves into new territory with its later focus on word games and cryptic crossword strategies for beginners. This is foreshadowed in the subtitle: “How to be a champion puzzler in 20 quick bites”. The book contains numerous word puzzles and 11 mini-crosswords, together with the answers.

In the classroom, the activities in Wordburger could be used as a warm-up to an English lesson or as an enjoyable activity for fast finishers. David Astle’s website (www.davidastle.com) showcases more puzzles; probably more suited to older/high school students. In the school library, this book would appeal to those students already fascinated by language.

The book is typeset in large font and is written in a way to appeal to word-loving children, Year 4 and up. It may also appeal to any adult seeking to teach themselves how to ‘do’ cryptic crosswords! I enjoyed dipping in and out of Wordburger and will be recommending it to my students.
Lynette Potts, Teacher Librarian, Lane Cove West Public School, NSW

Although this book is nonfiction and shelved in the 793.7 section, it is divided into chapters. Each chapter has an intriguing title e.g. ‘Tweaking QWERTY’ or ‘Cryptic Sneakery’.

Each chapter begins with an explanation of a concept to do with words or puzzles: anagrams, pangrams and spoonerisms to name a few. The text in these explanations is well-spaced, not too technical and would appeal to 8-12 year olds. Each chapter gives the reader a chance to have a go at the word puzzles or games themselves. This book contains word puzzles, tongue twisters and brain teasers, and will give readers all the ingredients they need to solve cryptic crosswords.

I would use this in a classroom as an extension activity for so-called word-nerds. The students who finish their spelling and grammar early could be challenged with some of Astle’s puzzles. It is also the perfect entertainment for those long car journeys. With its compact size, teamed with a pencil the ‘bored’ kids in the back seat no longer need to be bored.
Claire Cheeseman, Laingholm Primary School, NZ

If you want to be a knowledgeable wordsmith then this is the book for you! This is a cracker of a little book with lots of tips and ways of relooking at words and letters quite differently. If you want to know about anagrams, words within words, the origins of words etc. then this is the book to refer to. The author has made this subject material very accessible not only to students but also teachers who can impart and apply the knowledge in their classrooms.

This book has lots of uses in classroom or even just as a general quiz book. One example that this book can be used is in the way spelling is taught. Who just wants to learn a list of words when there can be diverse and fun ways of remembering how to spell? One of the chapters, there are mnemonic technique helpers to remember how to spell the tricky words like receive, a word that is generally spelt wrong by students. The tip that the author gives is fantastic (“It’s better to give than receive”) and one that can be easily remembered. I know that I will always remember this now! This simple technique gives a springboard to teachers and students (as well as parents and carers) of investigating other ‘tricky to spell’ words and what mnemonics can be thought up to help spell those words.

This book will be useful for teachers, especially those who teach English or Literacy skills as there are lots of activities that can be easily adapted for the classroom, such as:
• Word origin investigations
• Looking at the shape of words (tall/small letters)
• Creating new words
• Inventing word codes or word code breakers
The Wordburger is certainly a mouthful of delicious tips and techniques of looking at words!

PS: If you are no good at cryptic crosswords, like me, then you need to take a look at chapter 18 “Sly School”. Instead of being bamboozled by these clues, I now can look at them differently and actually work out the clue – genius!
Alison Hay, Teacher-Librarian, Yarra Hills Secondary College, VIC

There are plenty of word puzzle books on the market, but far fewer that are as lovingly created as Wordburger by David Astle. The book format and layout is attractive and unique as well, and invites readers to pick up this book. From the opening sentence it is clear the reader is meeting an author who loves words, and more importantly loves wordplay.

David writes with a playful style, offering an interesting narrative ‘vehicle’ that transports the reader through a number of word puzzles, codes and etymology, tongue twisters and puns that provide a real brain feast. ‘Food’ and ‘play’ are clearly the metaphors of choice for this book, but more importantly I feel that David revels in and reveals the ‘magic’ of words.

While the book style clearly ‘talks’ to the reader and engages them in a conversation, I found it quite easy to adapt the various sections into micro lessons to be used in the class. David has already provided the narrative ‘hook’ that engages the listener, and I could simply use his examples to springboard into a wordplay session, either as a short filler activity or extending to an entire lesson period. For example, the book opens with an exploration of anagrams, then provides thematic links with children’s names, garden-related terms, Australian town names even math word problems - in short, you can relate anagrams to any unit you happen to be teaching, and well as being able to differentiate the activity to suit the different abilities in the class.
Overall, this is an excellent wordplay book and a worthy addition to your personal or class library.
Michael Janssen-Gibson, Orana Steiner School, ACT

This book is truly word-nerd heaven. David Astle is the undisputed master of wordplay and this is a great book for anyone who wants to understand types of wordplay or to begin solving cryptic crosswords. While it is aimed at children aged 9-13, there is plenty for an adult to learn and use as well. It is easy to read, with fun challenges in each chapter, based on each type of wordplay. I particularly liked how each challenge within a chapter, has the answer/s on the very next page, written sideways along the edge. You don’t need to search in the back each time you get stuck. It’s like David is helping you along the way, which keeps the flow of the ‘story’ going. There are still plenty of actual crosswords as well, at the end of the book, along with their answers hidden at the very back.

The design of this book is another great aspect that can help with understanding and enjoyment. There are lots of little drawings to keep your interest, but more importantly, the words being talked about are made to stand out by having them in shaded boxes. It looks like they have been cut out and pasted into the book, which gives the pages a whimsical but readable quality.

Teachers may find Wordburger useful for times when they want a fun activity that will encourage a love of words. Many times I laughed aloud at the author’s ‘trickery’ and jokes. It is almost like magic when you see a hidden word or figure out a Spoonerism. The easy way the author explains anagrams, palindromes, mnemonics, homophones, pangrams (and many more) could be very handy for a teacher trying to teach these concepts in a fun way. David Astle throws in bits of history, jokes and stories in such a way, the kids won’t even know they’re learning!
Cherie Hicks, Kerrimuir Primary School, VIC

Are you looking for something different to do with junior to middle secondary students that involves word manipulation? Do you have any students in this age group that would rise to the challenge of learning how to solve cryptic crosswords, but you are stumped for appropriate resources? This is THE book for you.

Wordburger introduces students to various word manipulations, such as anagrams, joining smaller words together to make larger words, and recognising smaller words within larger words. Whilst these games may appear to be random, in the first section of the book, they are gradually introduced, to give students the base skills upon which to solve cryptic crossword puzzles. In the second part of Wordburger, Astle shows students how to utilise these skills to solve cryptic crossword puzzles of increasing complexity.

Wordburger is written in such a way as to be accessible to, and engage the average junior to middle secondary student. The strategies provided are clearly explained, and have worked with the student to whom I loaned this book. Whilst the latter part of the book contains a number of exercises, it is a pity that there are not more games/exercises in the first section of the work. Students who complete the activities in this book may still struggle with cryptic crosswords in daily newspapers, particularly more challenging ones.

Overall, this book is highly recommended. It would be most useful for individual students, or for small groups of students working through it as part of an extension activity/group.
Michael E Daniel, Camberwell Grammar School, VIC

Wordburger is a delightful little book, which takes the reader on a journey into the mysterious world of cryptic crosswords puzzles. Aimed at children aged 9-13, this book will also appeal to older teenagers and adults who enjoy puzzles, brain teasers and plays on words. The author, David Astle, a renowned “word-nerd”, introduces the reader to all the skills needed to solve word puzzles, from anagrams and finding hidden words in place names, to spoonerisms, tongue-twisters and palindromes.

There are many ways to use this book in the classroom. Many of the games and puzzles would be useful as activities for early finishers or for extending more capable students, or for engaging students who are reluctant readers or not that interested in language and grammar. For example, make up your own words with definitions and examples of usage (selfie, onesie and staycation have all become accepted words); think of ten examples of onomatopoeia; make up your own tongue-twisters; etc. I would use many of the puzzles and games to make “busy work” booklets, for grade split days, or when getting towards the end of term. I would also set the students a challenge to work in groups to compile their own crossword puzzles, which is more difficult than it may seem.

The author teaches the mechanics of cryptic crossword puzzles in an engaging and entertaining way, gradually building on the skills learned, with plenty of games to try out along the way. The exercises in here are also great for teaching and expanding on lateral thinking. As a long-time solver of cryptic crossword puzzles, I found this book interesting, fun and an excellent resource to refer to again and again. And of course, the answers to the puzzles are at the end of the book!
Anthea Barrett, CRT, VIC

Many of my grade 7 students took to Wordburger from page 1! They enjoyed the casual format and everyday language used. Several picked it up during our quiet reading time and tested themselves and class mates on their language skills. I would like to see the book printed in a larger format so it could be used more as a whole class resource.
Overall, an enjoyable and educational read for students and teachers that enjoy the complexity of the English language.
Emma Forbes, Latrobe High School, TAS

I’ve always found David Astle’s puzzles impossible so I’d hoped that maybe this book might help me start afresh to learn to understand how his fiendish mind works.

Wordburger’s language is catchy and the layout funky, liberally sprinkled with quirky line drawings. The book reminded me in many ways of the style of the “Horrible Histories” etc. series, longtime favourites of both boys and girls of Stage 3 grades. Is this book capable of engaging such an enthusiastic audience? I’m not sure of that — it seems to me to be just a bit tedious. For those who do persevere though, it holds lots of interesting philological information that future word nerds will lap up, or should that be chow down?

As a part-time teacher of beginner ESL adults, I see this book as a great resource for language based lessons, providing lots of examples to demonstrate the peculiarities of English! Likewise, in a Stage 2 or 3 classroom Wordburger would be very helpful in explaining, through examples, the concepts of codes and anagrams, Spoonerisms, palindromes and pangrams.

But, inevitably, Wordburger moves towards its climax — the cryptic crossword! Don’t think that because you get there slowly, step by step, you’ve conquered the genre — after all, this is David Astle. However, he does try to make them accessible and then, too late, you’re caught: they are seriously addictive! “After swallowing so many words, from burger to dessert, your body must be full of onomatopoeia. From ouch to eek, from hiccup to aha. Plus that new cryptic buzz in your brain. Long may you thrill in your new secret skill!” (p.247).

Helpfully provided throughout the book are answers on the following pages to each minor quest, and answers to the more formal gridded puzzles are found at the end.

Wordburger won’t appeal to all children; many will be too impatient or too disinterested to work through the tasks. But those who do will enjoy both the chase and the satisfaction of crossword completion, albeit at a junior level. And there must be at least a few out there who will be the next generation of quirky-nerd wordsmiths who, like the author, would choose “to live in Kew, because it sounds like a letter” (p.256)!
Julie Davies

Styled on a recipe book for inquiry, this little yellow tome is jam-packed with seriously entertaining and brain-stretching activities. Branded as “100% David Astle” (he of the Sydney Morning Herald crossword fame), you know it’s going to be challenging, but there’s no need to panic. You don’t have to be a cryptic crossword savant to interpret these puzzles and apply them in your classroom. From word scrambles to puns and palindromes, there’s fun right throughout and something for all of the students in your classes. Wordburger is a gift for differentiation.
How to use Wordburger

  • Begin lessons with a word/number symbiosis (p.5). Have this on the board/Smartboard as students come into the room.
    • My students love these challenges and sometimes they work in pairs and small groups as well as individually to solve the problem. Run a term roll of honour for the top 10 code-crackers.
  • Use Astle’s vocabulary facts and games, such as Viking Treasure (p.67), as a springboard for visual representation tasks:
    • Stretch to sketch: draw the meaning of individual words
    • Creating narratives: research etymology of specific words/metalanguage, then write the story of these words using personification
  • Have fun with homophones (p. 75):
    • Make lists, think-pair-share to write ambiguous headlines
    • Investigate puns and innuendo. Create and illustrate puns.
  • Take a brain break with a The Pangrammy Awards (p. 173): 3 minutes in groups of 3 to create sentences using every letter of the alphabet.
  • Wouldn’t be a David Astle production without crosswords: laminate copies for quiet moments, competitive moments and peer-mentoring moments. Encourage students to create their own from these scaffolds.

There are so many ideas: use the activities straight from the book or use them to spark many more. Dip into the feast that is Wordburger.
Kim Kitson, Brisbane Water Secondary College, NSW

I really enjoyed this little book. Taking the hint from the front cover, I found that dipping into it for a ‘bite’, then a break for some contemplation, suited both the layout and the learning process. The text is accessible and easy to dip into, a blend of chatty explanation, and simple self-administered tests to reinforce learning. I like the way Astle goes off on tangents, and makes connections between words and their derivations which are both amusing and make sense. The illustrations are fun, simple and cartoonish, in black and white and grey tones, and the font very clear and simple.

Dividing the book into 20 ‘bites’ with 3 ‘sides’ will help young readers to maintain interest, without having to read the whole text at once. A simple ‘Menu’ as the Contents list, and a message that ‘slow tastes better’, encourage the reader to take their time in enjoying the book. Whilst I didn’t particularly see any direct application to developing word puzzle skills, I did see that increased understanding of synonyms, spoonerisms, word reversals, and just generally having fun playing with language would encourage children to enjoy word puzzles. Even the title and the extended metaphor of ‘eating’ words encourages a sense of fun around creating words.

Astle ends his book with the answers to the self-administered tests, always a good move, allowing young readers to check their own learning. Primary school teachers may also appreciate this, as it provides opportunity for some classwork which could lighten some of the Language teaching that is required. Suitable for middle Primary to lower Secondary readers.
Helen Wilde, SA

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