WORD PLAY in “Harold Finds a Voice”

Title:  Harold Finds a Voice

Author/Illustrator:  Courtney Dicmas

Publisher:  Child’s Play Inc.

Year:  2013

Word Count:  300 (estimate)



Last year I came across this great list of 100 Character Driven Picture Books.   I have been steadily making my way through the list with plenty of trips to the local library ever since. Of all the books that I’ve read on the list thus far, one that really stood out to me in terms of its appeal for children and the inherent possibilities for interactivity (something that is very important to me given my work as an interactive storyteller!) was Harold Finds a Voice. I found the book so charming that I couldn’t resist buying it for my son for Christmas!

While Harold’s story, as the title and the list from which it comes suggest, is definitely character-driven, what makes this book most unique to me is its excellent word play. By word play I mean playing with words in a way that children will fully appreciate — with tons of onomatopoeia. There are whole spreads in this book that contain nothing but onomatopoeic words — many of which are new and imaginative and which children, like Harold, will enjoy repeating over and over again.

You see, Harold is “a gifted bird. He could hear any sound just once and copy it perfectly.”

The illustrations picture Harold next to a number of different objects and then show him making their corresponding sound. Have you ever wondered what a vibrating cell phone sounds like? How about “frzz! frzz! frzz!”? The blender goes “bweeeee.” — Yep, that sounds like my blender.

“He (Harold) loved the sound of water most.”

shhhh — sound of the shower

flussshh — sound of, you guessed it, the toilet!

whooosh, whooosh, whooosh — sound of the washing machine


When Harold goes out exploring in the world, he is introduced to even more sounds to imitate.

oooh weeeoooh  — This one may be my favorite! The sound of a police car. I kind of want to keep repeating it over and over again.

I feel the same way about the big barge: OOOOOOOOH!

And the cheerful sound of rain: plunka plunka plunk plunka plunk

In the end, Harold finds his own unique voice (also fun to imitate!). You’ll have to read the book to hear how it sounds, or perhaps, you can guess! The genius of this book is that even young children can “read along,” and enjoy the word play. As they see the pictures, they will know which sounds to make and when.

Each of us hear tons of sounds every day, but most of the time they literally go in one ear and out the other. Children, however, seem to be more attuned to the sound world than adults. The muted sound of a plane soaring above our house is enough to completely distract my 10 month old son from what he’s doing whereas I go on as if nothing happened. But what if we started to think more about sound and challenged our children to imaginatively do the same? To me Harold Finds a Voice will inspire readers to do just that.

Below are some great questions to get started — hopefully they will be helpful to writers and fun for children!

What are some of the sounds you hear everyday? How would you imitate those sounds with your voice? How would you turn them into a word(s) so that others could imitate them too?

14 Responses to “WORD PLAY in “Harold Finds a Voice””

  1. Laura Boffa

    Great review! I have to admit, sometimes I get tired of onomatopoeia books, although it seems like preschoolers never do. But this one sounds especially unique and sweet. I’ll definitely check it out. Thanks for the recommendation!

    • Lindsay

      Thanks Julianna! I’m glad you liked the book as well. I thought it was simple and sweet! Harold is such a lovable character!

  2. Katie @ The Logonauts

    Sounds like a really fun one! Last year I shared with my students some posters that contained words in different languages for the sounds animals make. Really fun to see how different languages translate those noises!

    • Lindsay

      Yes, Katie, you are right! Kids love learning about the way different cultures/languages describe animal sounds! My husband is from Colombia so I remember learning this first-hand. Today one of the Mexican folktales I tell for my storytelling company teaches some of the different Hispanic animal sounds. And one I’m working on for this summer is going to include Japanese animal sounds! What grade do you teach?

    • Christie Wright Wild

      Katie, were the posters purchased or did you make them? I have a book that does just that, as well. Hoping to get it published one day, even if it’s an app. Would love to see them, if you can share somehow.

  3. Joyce Tucker

    What a cool book for word play. I love the onomatopoeia that it uses. And wouldn’t kids just have so much fun with this book.

    Thanks for the post and for the website for character-driven books.

  4. Damon Dean

    This book sounds marvelous, Lindsay. Sounds—no pun intended! I have heard of this title but never seen it in a store or library. Maybe because it’s been checked out or bought! Will have to find it. Great review.

  5. Linda E.H.

    Not only do kids enjoy onomatopoeia but it sure makes reading books aloud more fun for adults as well.

    The cover is beautifully illustrated. I think that would be the first thing to pull me into getting this book but if the story is as good as you make it sound, then one read would be all anyone would need.


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