Title: Harold Finds a Voice
Author/Illustrator: Courtney Dicmas
Publisher: Child’s Play Inc.
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?