Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Joyful Noise: a Review

I picked up this book at the library, knowing nothing about it, but wanting poetry and appreciating the fact that it was written for 'two voices.' I thought choral reading would be a fun activity to do with the kids: one that would enable us to simultaneously enjoy the beauty of poems and the act of reading aloud together. Joyful Noise (by Paul Fleischman) did not disappoint.

The poems in Joyful Noise are all about insects. "Insects?!" you might ask incredulously. Yes, but the topic of insects is portrayed here with creative, humorous, and sometimes even poignant language and themes. For example, one poem is about moths ... and their detrimental but inevitable love affairs with lights. "Porch light, hear my plight! I drink your light like nectar/ Dream of you by day/ Gaze in your eyes all night/ Porch light!"

Another is about the digger wasp, and how the mother provides for and 'loves' her babies even though they never get to meet her. "I will never see my children, they will never gaze on me. I'll have died when they're emerging next July. So it must be. Yet, when they behold the home I'm digging now for their protection, safe and snug far underground, they'll recognize my deep affection."

The imagery in Fleischman's poetry is reason enough to read this book. But the fact that he wrote it for two voices to 'sing' together is just as good a reason! The lines are arranged in a variety of ways. Some poems use the unison lines to add emphasis and unity (as in a mated couple of book lice who love each other despite their different taste in literature); others use simultaneous lines to provide comparison (for example, a worker bee and queen bee giving opposite opinions of "a bee's life"). When reading these aloud with my 10- and 11-year-olds, I often felt like I was singing a duet with them. The language and rhythm were lyrical and clever, a joy to the ear!

I can not recommend Joyful Noise highly enough. My children, who have not been exposed to much poetry yet (to my shame), were captivated, as was I. Let me close with a few lines about the firefly: "Fireflies gleaming/ glowing/ Insect calligraphers/ practicing penmanship/ copying sentences/ Six-legged scribblers of vanishing messages, fleeting graffiti/ Fine artists in flight/ adding dabs of light/ bright brush strokes/ Signing the June nights as if they were paintings."

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