Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Monday, May 30, 2016

Entertaining Elements...Of Speech

A group of students have just entered your classroom and taken their seats.  You announce today they will be spending time writing.  Or you could announce time today will be dedicated to playing in addition to any designated recess they might have.  Which proclamation will receive the most favorable response?

Words, individually or gathered together, offer infinite opportunities.  When the use of words is connected to fun, it's a win.  Yaks Yak: Animal Word Pairs (Clarion Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, March 8, 2016) written by Linda Sue Park with illustrations by Jennifer Black Reinhardt explores the versatility of language.

Yaks yak.
to yak=to talk

Eighteen creatures are featured participating in activities spelled and spoken exactly as they are.  It's a menagerie of definitions.  It's a formula for fun.

Insects take pleasure in annoying each other.  Sea critters fail to succeed.  Birds cringe at the slightest hint of unease seeking shelter for protection.

Primates and canines irritate and persevere respectively.  It might be a little strange but on a clear day, looking over the side of your boat, who knows what you will discover happening beneath the waves.  Flying mammals head for a dugout.

Fighting crawlers, crouching water fowl, and blustering birds have their way, save the day and have their say.  Pigs will ponder their piles of produce.  Children will be children.  These word combinations are unlikely to bore a boar.

When you begin to discover the potential for play and words existing at the same time, as done by author Linda Sue Park, it can't be ignored.  With her choice of animal-verb medleys Park invites us to find our own.  For several of the pairs three words appear instead of two.  In a switch, an exclamation mark makes a point.  Here is another match.

Parrots parrot.
to parrot=to repeat

Throughout the title, beginning on the matching dust jacket and book case, the illustrations were rendered in watercolor and ink on Arches 300 pound bright white, hot press, watercolor paper.  Delicate, fine lines, intricate details, soft texture and a full color palette enhance the humor found in the text.  As you can see with the yaks on the front, Jennifer Black Reinhardt creates animated characters.  To the left, on the back, in the same hue of blue as the title letters, a background highlights a circular frame filled with two parrots saying

love this book.

One is wearing a bow tie and the other a tie.  A raised foot and wing let us know their discussion is lively.

The opening and closing endpapers are done in vertical stripes in two shades of green like wallpaper in a traditional, quaint setting.  The title page is enclosed in a garland of tiny leaves.  A crow wearing a top hat adorned in colorful feathers is walking across the title text.  A small fly leaves a dotted trail from the edge of the final letter k.

All of the images span two pages.  Each is a unique depiction of the animal-action pairs.  The yaks yak over a cup of tea in a parlor but their food is a pile of grass on a plate.  As flounders flounder their air bubbles include exclamations of dismay and puzzlement. When the quails quail a bright-bold scary kite flies in from the edge of the right side.

Readers will want to stop and look at each picture.  There is happiness to be found.  One of the apes is wearing bling in the form of earrings and a necklace.  A fish has hooked a book titled

The Book of Compliments.

Tea cups, hats, and apples appear more than once.  Reinhardt has cleverly placed the definition within each picture.

One of my favorite illustrations is for steers steer.  The setting is an amusement park.  The animals are riding in bumper cars.  The looks on their faces and the spinning of one in particular will have you grinning from ear to ear.  The seven cars are different colors.  The sign holding the definition of steer acts as the marquee for the ride.

Winning wordplay in Yaks Yak: Animal Word Pairs written by Linda Sue Park with illustrations by Jennifer Black Reinhardt will have readers reaching for their dictionaries between bouts of laughter.  It's a delightful fusion of whimsy and wit.  At the end two pages explain the origins of the animals' names and the actions.

To learn more about Linda Sue Park and Jennifer Black Reinhardt and their work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.  At Picture Book Builders Jennifer Black Reinhardt talks about the process for creating her art for this book.  Be sure to watch this Tedx Talks video Can A Children's Book Change the World by Linda Sue Park.


  1. You've been busy, Margie--I'm just catching up on your posts. I LOVED this one so simple, elegant & brilliant. And Jennifer's art had the perfect touch of humor!

    1. I have been busy Maria! :) Linda Sue Park put a lot of work into this book. You can find other pairs but finding the ones with the same spelling is trickier. Jennifer's art DID add humor which readers of all ages enjoy.