cover image Big Talk: Poems for Four Voices

Big Talk: Poems for Four Voices

Paul Fleischman, Beppe Giacobbe. Candlewick Press (MA), $18.99 (48pp) ISBN 978-0-7636-0636-7

Fleischman expands from verse duets, as featured in his Newbery Award-winning Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices, to quartets with this well-crafted volume. Part drama, part chorus, the three extended poems read like a musical score: each speaker follows a line of color--green, yellow, orange or purple--then rests when the line is blank. An introduction explains how to use the book and suggests some variations (for fewer or more than four readers). Except for the full-page images that begin and end each poem, Italian artist Giacobbe's computer-generated illustrations appear within a kind of elaborate comic strip at the bottom of each page. Fleischman's poems vary in dramatic and poetic intensity. In ""The Quiet Evenings Here,"" droll country folk detail the noises of city life, images of which Giacobbe captures in sepia tones, as well as their preferred serene gatherings around the hearth, rendered in full color. Readers eventually realize that the ""peaceful"" evenings--""Grandma rockin'/ Clock tick-tockin'/ Sister hummin'/ Grandpa strummin' ""--may not be so quiet after all. ""Seventh-Grade Soap Opera"" gives voice to the perils of junior high life as a never-ending saga; the artwork carries through the theme with extended phone chords and overlapping images within discreet vignettes. In ""Ghosts Grace,"" the standout among the collection, four ghostly narrators observe a family at dinner and, much as Emily does in Wilder's Our Town, the foursome savors the extraordinary nature of ordinary experience. A lively and thought-provoking treat guaranteed to get kids talkin'. Ages 10-14. (Mar.)