Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

A Foot in the Mouth: Poems to Speak, Sing, and Shout

A Foot in the Mouth: Poems to Speak, Sing, and Shout

Selected by Paul B. Janeczko
Illustrator:  Chris Raschka 
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 7 to 10
Candlewick, 2012   ISBN: 978-0763660833

The amazing thing about the written word is that it can be enjoyed in so many ways. We can read a book to ourselves, enjoying the language and the story in solitude, or we can share what we are reading with others. Reading out loud used to be something that many people did. As a family sat around a fire or on a porch, one of their number would read out loud while the others knitted, sewed, whittled wood, or simply sat and listened. Reading to oneself is a wonderful way to spend some time, but reading to others is special because you get to hear the beauty of the language and you get to share it. There are some pieces of writing that come to life when someone lets the words be heard aloud.

   Many pieces of poetry are like this. It is almost as if they were meant to be read out loud. For this book Paul B. Janeczko has selected thirty-six poems that are perfect for reading out loud. There are short ones, like Gigl, which is only six words long, and then there are others that are longer and more complicated. Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll, for example, is full of words that most of us have never even heard before. What on earth is a “borogove” or a Tumtum tree?” The great thing about this poem is that is does not matter if we don’t know what all the words mean. They sound delicious.

   Some of the poems have an almost musical feel to them. Certainly Us Two by A.A. Milne is just such a poem. The bouncing rhythm and rhyming elements make this poem perfect for reading out loud.   

   Paul Janeczko has even chosen some poems that two or more readers can read together. Fishes: Poem for Two Voices by Georgia Heard is perfect for a two people to share, and an excerpt from Macbeth has three parts. Good Hot Dogs by Sandra Cisneros comes in two flavors, English and Spanish. What a wonderful way for two people to share the same poem!

   Many of the poems have one more thing to offer. They are perfect for memorizing. Sometimes the story in the poem is so catchy that one cannot help learning the poem quickly. Edward Lear’s The Owl and the Pussycat is a good example of this. Then there are the ones that are funny. Short and quirky limericks fit the bill for people who like to smile and laugh. Other poems have such wonderful language that we welcome the opportunity to take those words and tuck them into our memories so that we can pull them out whenever we want. Walt Whitman’s I Hear America Singing is the kind of poem that you want to keep in your head. It will always be there, so you can take it out at will, dust it off, and stay it loud.

   This is a splendid collection of poems that readers of all ages will enjoy exploring.

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