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Big Talk: Poems for Four Voices

by Paul Fleischman
Illustrated by Beppe Giacobbe

Published by Candlewick, 2000
44 pages
ISBN: 0-7636-0636-7

Ages 9 - 14

After having reinvented choral reading for children with his poetry for two voices in Joyful Noise and I Am Phoenix, here Paul Fleischman stretches himself further with a daring foray into poetry for twice as many voices. The three poems in this volume hold such enormous appeal for young readers that they'll be itching to try them out aloud. "The Quiet Evenings Here" celebrates the small noises of a family that prefers to stay at home; "Seventh Grade Soap Opera"offers short bursts of teenage gossip; and "Ghosts' Grace" features the delicious patter of unseen guests at the dinner table, commenting on the things they most miss about eating: "To do battle with butter / brick-hard and defiant / in wintertime / soft and servile / in July. / I'm hungry for hunger! / What rapture, that tug in the stomach / when butter and rolls are close by!" As Fleischman explains in an introductory note, each poem gets progressively more challenging to read aloud. He has included helpful instructions for how to interpret the design which uses four color-coded horizontal bars to delineate the speakers and arranges words almost like musical notes. It's a bit tricky but with some practice, the words will begin to flow, and the poems themselves are likely to be as much fun for the listeners as they are for the speakers. Giacobbe's buoyant color illustrations add a lively humor without detracting from the poems themselves. Everything in the book's design, in fact, from its elongated shape to its consistent use of color, enhances the author's intent and the readers' ease. CCBC categories: Poetry. (KTH; April 17) 2000 Cooperative Children's Book Center

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