Saturday, July 14, 2007

Joyful Noise

I liked the 1989 winner, Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices, by Paul Fleischman quite a bit - but I think I would have been more impressed by it if I hadn't just read Karen Hesse's gut-wrenchingly powerful and beautiful poetry in Out of the Dust.

Joyful Noise is a collection of fourteen short poems about insects, written in two columns and meant to be read aloud by two people (ideally, you & your child). The "joyful noise" refers to the cicada poem, but could just as well mean your reading. Some lines are meant to be read together, but when my ten-year-old son and I spoke in unison, it didn't sound as good as I thought it would. I liked the alternating lines better - but I did really enjoy the reading aloud part. He tolerated it, because he loves insects.

The "read aloud" aspect, especially with two people, was pretty innovative. And I adored the black and white illustrations by Eric Beddows, which added a whole different dimension to the book, with quirky little moths, whiligig beetles, mayflies, etc.

My favorite poem was "Book Lice" (this is just a snippet of it):
I missed Conan Doyle
he pined for his Keats
We're book lice
fine mates
despite different tastes. (p. 17)
But I did wonder how many kids got all the author references.

My son's favorite poem was the tragic "Moth's Serenade" (to the porch light!). But when I told him to write the book down in his list for our library's summer reading program (prizes for every five books, and a big one at the end after 15 books) he refused, arguing that "it's too short to be a real book for my age". What a weird kid.

I did think that Joyful Noise was kind of light-weight compared to most of the other Newbery winners I've read so far - both in length (44 pages) and in subject. I'll bet the judges were just so blown away by the format, that they chose it anyway. I'm rather glad that they did - because I probably would never have read it otherwise.

PS What is it about insects that make them such a popular topic for kid's poetry? This reminded me of another (very different, but equally enjoyable) more recent book: Song of the Water Boatman & Other Poems, by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Beckie Prange.


doulicia said...

I'll have to try this one with my son. At 14 poems it sounds brief enough for him to endure, if it comes to that. Thanks for your summary and review, both of which I appreciated.

Terrell said...

I enjoyed this book too. I haven't thought of it in a while. I think I'll get it out for my fourth-graders this week. Maybe I'll post a teaser from it on my blog. I try to post a "Poem to Start the Week" each monday.