Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices by Paul Fleischman (Illustrated by Eric Beddows)

Published in 1988 by Harper Trophy
Poetry / Poetry Collections

I was surprised to learn that Paul Fleischman's Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices was published in 1988 and that I had never heard of it. Where has this book been all my life? I've never heard it
mentioned or recommended by any librarian or teacher. This 1989 Newbery Medal award winning volume of poetry is incredible, and I will definitely add it to my personal library. The poems in this book could provide many opportunities for students to act out the poems they are reading, and I can envision numerous uses for this volume in my classroom. It would be a great addition to my collection of concrete poetry.

This unusual collection of poems is designed to be read by two people, either individually or simultaneously. Joyful Noise is a companion volume to I Am Phoenix, a collection of two-voice poems about birds, and both books are usually purchased togetherThe fourteen poems included in this volume recreate the sounds of various insects: grasshoppers, mayflies, fireflies, moths, cicadas, and honeybees, just to name a few.

My personal favorite is the poem "Book Lice." What an interesting way to look at an insect I would normally abhor! Fleischman makes book lice seem adorable, and in the illustration, the tiny insects are actually smiling. I am certain the next time I see an old, dusty book, images of book lice will come to mind. As much as I love books and would hate to see these destructive creatures destroyed, I find myself feeling empathy for them. Fleischman creates feeling and brings his tiny insects to life through his use of language and imagery:
I was born in a
fine old edition of Shiller
                                           While I started life
                                            in a private eye thriller
We're book lice                     We're book lice
who dwell                             who dwell
in these dusty bookshelves      in these dusty bookshelves.
Later I lodged in
Scott's works-volume 50
                                            While I passed my youth
                                            in an Agatha Christie
We're book lice                      We're book lice
attached                                attached
despite contrasting pasts         despite contrasting pasts.
Once day, while in search of
a new place to eat
                                            He fell down seven shelves,
                                            where we happened to meet
We're book lice                      We're book lice
who chew                             who  chew
on the bookbinding glue           on the bookbinding glue (15-16).

The book lice get married and honeymoon in an old guide book on Greece and continue to tell the tale of their journey in first-person point of view. These few stanzas provide just a taste of the clever poetry presented in Fleischman's book.

Not only are the poems a delight but the illustrations are equally noteworthy. Eric Beddows, the illustrator for this text, has received numerous grants and awards for his artistic work. His simple, black and white pencil drawings illustrate each poem and bring life to the text. This book can best be described in one word: FUN! It will make you smile!

Paul Fleischman's Official Website

More About Eric Beddows

More Images by Eric Beddows

Source for Images       


  1. My little sister and I read "Book Lice" together. We loved reading it out loud! I definitely want to check out "I am Phoenix." I didn't even know that one existed before we had to do this!

  2. This book is absolutely incredible! Aren't the book lice adorable?