Janeczko, Paul B. 2009. A Foot in the Mouth: Poems to Speak, Sing, and Shout. Ill. by Chris Raschka. Somerville. MA: Candlewick Press. ISBN – 9780763606633.
Critical Review –
In this thirty-seven poem anthology, Janeczko collects a symphony of sounds in this diverse assortment of poems. He uses contemporary poets, such as Janet Wong and Douglas Florian along with time honored classic poems like Walt Whitman’s “I Hear America Singing.” Janeczko also crosses genre lines with Shakespeare’s MacBeth Act IV, Scene I in which the three witches are speaking and written in poetic form. Additionally, Janeczko infuses cultural diversity in poems that use French words, and some poems written in Spanish. Each poem has strong sound elements such as rhyme, alliteration, repetition, and onomatopoeia. All of this is to focus on the sounds in poetry no matter the time period, culture, or genre.
Janeczko organizes the poems by sound type: poems for one voice, tongue twisters, poems for two voices, list poems, poems for three voices, short stuff, bilingual poems, rhymed poems, limericks, and poems for a group. He includes an introduction that explains why he feels sound is extremely important in poetry and concludes with an invitation to try the poems out. Just as the poems tickle the ears, the illustrations dazzle the eyes. All of the illustrations, done in ink and watercolors on torn paper, are vividly bright abstracts that invite visual scrutiny. The images wonderfully enhance each poem without overpowering the poems. Below is a delightful poem from this collection that begs to be read out loud.
By David McCord
You are French? Je suis.
You speak French? Mais oui.
I don't speak French. Non?
I speak English. Bon!
Kid Connection –
Introduce the poem by playing the song “Frere Jacques.” Ask the children if they know what the language of the song is. Next, read the poem, “Innuendo” by David McCord. Share with the children that some of the words in the poem are also in French like the song. Then, read the poem again by having the children read the English words while you read the French words. Ask the students if the poem rhymes. Next, share the poem again replacing the French words with their English translations. Ask the children if the poem still rhymes. Discuss why the poet might have decided to use French words instead of English.