illustrated by Eric Beddows
Who would have ever thought that poems about bugs could come to life and have character? Well, Paul Fleischman and Eric Beddows have done just that. Fleischman has an untouchable craft. When these poems are read by two readers, the insects voices join together to create a duet. The music of these words produces a rhythm and beat that brings the insects to life. You can hear the insects buzzing and humming as they go about their business. Perhaps that is why it was the winner of the John Newberry Award.
The poems are written in two separate columns for the two readers. There are times when the readers read the same words, times when the words alternate between the two readers, and times when they are echoing each other. Fleischman is able to incorporate rhythm, sound pattern, and imagery.
Fleischman has demonstrated an outstanding ability to write with perspective. From Sidewalk Circus, Westlandia, Seedfolks, and Bull Run to Joyful Noise he continues to present an amazing perspective. I never thought I would find some of these bugs cute or even feel sympathy, but somehow those feelings are evoked. Fleischman’s language is lyrical and people young and old will enjoy reading these poems aloud.
Some of the information is true while some is fictional. My favorite poem was about “Book Lice.” This poem is about lice that live in books. “We honeymooned in an/old guide book on Greece.” “We’re book lice/ fine mates/despite different tastes.”
This book would certainly be a big hit in classrooms as children read aloud with a friend. This book lends itself well to the opportunities of visualizing with mental images. From the “Whiligig Beetles” “We’re spinning and swerving/ as if we’re on a/ mad merry-go-round.” Children will be able to relate to this description. As children read this aloud the will begin to feel the power of language and enjoy poetry. Even the most reluctant reader would be engaged in these poems. They would love the alliteration as they heard the sound of the words “flickering, flitting flashing.” Children would find the humor in the thought of fireflies writing on the night sky. The most amazing effect of reading these poems about bugs is that they will never think of a bug in the same way. I am certain when a child sees a firefly at night, s/he will recall this poem and think of them writing on the night sky. Or when they find a bug in a book, they will think of the “Book Lice.”
Eric Beddows uses black and white pencil drawings to illustrate his bugs. He is able to convey a character within each of them that allows the reader to see them in a different light. We don’t view them as pesky and want to shoo them off. As the “Book Lice” are standing arm in arm on top of two books. The smaller book is called The Jury and the larger book is called Poems. They are standing on these books as they are deciding where to live. The illustrations add character and charm to the magical musical duet.
Some of these poems are sad while others are funny. Some are loud while others are quiet. But all together they produce the Joyful Noise that surrounds us.