Paul Fleischman has created a truly unique offering for children in his Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices. A collection of antiphonal poetry, the poems in this charming volume are all about bugs. Antiphonal poetry involves two people reading each poem; the lines of the poem are arranged in two columns so that each narrator can figure out his or her lines. In JN, the readers will sometimes be speaking alone, sometimes in unison, and sometimes overlapping–each with a unique line.

Fleischman’s little book is organized by the seasons in that the first poems deal with the insects we first encounter in the spring (grasshoppers); the final poems end with winter and what that means for the world of creepy-crawlies. Most poem are in first person–from an insect point of view. The language changes for each insect, gaining speed in the “Whirly-gig Beetle” offering, moving rythmically in the “Waterboatmen” version, chirping away in “House Crickets.”

This is one of those books that you simply must experience in audio format. It is less than half an hour long–it would make a nice preschool or kindergarten offering in the midst of longer, “older” books during a long car ride. It fits in well if you’re simply running errands, too, since each poem is quite short. The narrators are top notch (I listed to the Recorded Books, Inc. version–those are often found in libraries), and poetry should always be heard, rather than merely read. I think the collection will most resonate with preschool-kindergarten-aged children, but anyone who enjoys bugs and the insect world will appreciate the subtle humor, the variety of language, and the intricacies of hive life that Fleischman includes in his charming poetry collection.

For other audio book recommendations (for those summer trips!), check out the audiobooks category in the right-hand column.