One of my favorite picture books of 2016 was Du Iz Tak. 

I love reading it with my students, (and my own kids) and seeing the blank looks on their faces when it begins, and they realize the dialogue is not in English. I assure them that we’ll figure it out together using the illustrations and context clues, and then we do. I pause as we go along and ask them what they think several of the words or phrases mean, and every time, someone guesses the right word or phrase in English (or at least what I think is right.)

After  we finish, I ask them what they thought about it. They always tell me that, at first, it made them uncomfortable when they realized that the book wasn’t in their language, and they thought it would be hard to follow the story.

Then we talk about how they did, in the end, get what was going on because they left their brains on, and kept trying to figure it out. So often, when confronted with something new, or something we don’t understand, we shut our brains off and quit trying.

I feel like Du Iz Tak offers a great opportunity to have a conversation with kids about having a growth mindset and about not giving up just because something is hard or unfamiliar.

I thought it would be fun to share how my students and I have translated the bug language in Du Iz Tak over the last two years. I have no confirmation if any of this is accurate, but I feel like most of it is at least close. That’s why it’s an “unofficial” dictionary.

The Unofficial Du Iz Tak Phrase Dictionary

Badda– to need or require something

Du iz tak– What is that?

Du kimma…? – What kind of? (example “Du kimma plonk? What kind of plant?”)

Furt– fort


Gladdenboot!- Flower!


Ho!- Hey! or Yo!

Icky- This totally chill guy. He’s a reader, a relaxer and likes to lend out ladders to friends.


Ma nazoot- I don’t know.

Oodas-  friends, or maybe guys. Where I’m from, this could probably be translated as, “Y’all.”

EDIT: Carson Ellis tweeted @ me (which made my morning) and let me know that this one is actually “kids.” So I missed 1 out of 19. Not bad.

Ooky– Icky’s better half. And guess what, oodas? She can totally blow smoke rings.


Plonk-  plant


Ribble- a ladder


Ru– we

Rup– our

Scrivadelly– beautiful (this one is definitely just my best guess. I could be way off here)

Su!– Yes!

Ta ta– goodbye

unk– a

Voobeck!– Spider!


That’s it. If you haven’t seen this beautiful book you should probably go buy it. It won a Caldecott honor, so you should be able to find it at any self-respecting bookstore.