Sunday, July 06, 2008

38. Joyful Noise/I Am Phoenix

by Paul Fleischman, read by Melissa Hughes, Scott Snively and others

This audiobook has the 1989 Newbery winner, Joyful Noise, poems about insects, as well as an earlier, similar book, I Am Phoenix, poems about birds, by the same author. They are read aloud by anywhere from two to five voices.

The most effective poems, though, were those read only by two (as the author intended as both are subtitled "Poems for Two Voices"), that also had few or no contrasting words spoken simultaneously. I found the overlapping in the latter poems often difficult to understand, especially when read aloud by more than two voices. In Joyful Noise, five voices were used on “Cicada” (its concluding line is the source of the book’s title) and “Whirligig Beetles.” All this did was make the poems too loud (they seemed to be shouting) and too difficult to understand.

On the other hand, "Honeybees" was quite successful, even with a little overlapping, particularly as voiced on the audiobook by a boy (the worker) and a girl (the queen). The boy was especially effective in expressing the malcontent of the worker bee’s life, portraying frustration in lines like “then I put in an hour making wax, without two minutes time to sit still and relax,” “..I’m on larva detail feeding the grubs in their cells, wishing that I were still helpless and pale,” and “Then I build some new cells, slaving away at enlarging this Hell, dreading the sight of another sunrise, wondering why we don’t all unionize.”

My other favorite poem was “Fireflies.” I enjoyed the metaphors (”Light is the ink we use, Night is our parchment,” “Insect calligraphers practicing penmanship,” “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”) and the alliteration.

I also enjoyed “Book Lice” for the humor and author references (although most children won’t get them). “Water Boatman” was funny for the repetition of the word “Stroke!” evoking images of a racing boat.

I thought the poems in I Am Phoenix were less effective; most seemed to simply be naming species of birds. Nevertheless, both books benefit from being read aloud; neither book would be as effective if read silently by a single person. Running time for both books is only 35 minutes.

The only advantage of the paper books are the lovely penciled illustrations by Eric Beddows (working as Ken Nutt on I Am Phoenix). I would recommend this audiobook for a poetry unit in a classroom, combined with the print version so the students could both hear and see what the author intended.

[This review also appears on The Newbery Project.]


  1. Recorded Books7/9/08, 1:38 PM

    Hello - I responded to your comment over on The Newbery Project site. Thanks for letting us know a problem - but see the wikipedia definition for dactyl and anapest - we seem to be accurate. Is there something we're missing?

    We did re-proof the plans and worksheet and corrected the one typo/misspelling we were able to find.

    I'm glad you downloaded our worksheets and enjoyed the recording - let us know what you think of the lessons (other than the issues mentioned above, of course)! We love to hear from educators like you, and want everything we post to be as useful (and accurate!) as possible.

  2. Recorded Books7/9/08, 1:51 PM

    Ahhhh...ok fixed it. Thanks :)