I haven’t written an IMWAYR post in months, but one of my goals for the new year is to blog more often, so I’m starting early with this post.
I was a little late to the Mac Barnett party, but I’ve been a devoted fan ever since I discovered Extra Yarn (Blazer + Bray, 2012). Having been on something of a bird kick this year, when I saw Telephone at my local bookstore, I grabbed it.
Barnett’s simple text and Corace’s illustrations work together to evoke a bygone era when kids played outside until it was time for dinner. The avian world on the telephone wire above echoes the human world below where kids are outside reading, running, and climbing. The story begins with Peter’s mother’s simple request, “Tell Peter: Fly home for dinner.” The young cardinal she asks is toting a baseball bat and hears what he wants to hear— “Tell Peter: Hit pop flies and homers.” The birds along the wire continue to mangle this message until it is unrecognizable. Meanwhile, back in the human neighborhood, kids are waving goodbye as they get called inside. Finally, a zany, high-strung bird turns to an unflappable owl and tells him an outrageous mishmash of all the previous messages. The owl gives the other bird a sidelong glance, then calmly turns to Peter and tells him to “fly home for dinner.”
Corace’s illustrations are full of fine comic touches that add depth to the birds’ personalities: a distressed looking turkey is “too high on this wire,” and a rock-loving wren is decked out with star-shaped glasses and electric guitar.
Kids will love this book just for the pure silliness of it, but they’ll also love playing their own game of telephone. The witty word play also makes Telephone a terrific mentor text. Kids could have fun playing with rhymes, near rhymes, and synonyms to create their own version of Telephone.