Author: Mac Barnett
Illustrator: Jen Corace
Age Range: 3-7
Telephone, written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jen Corace, is a humorous celebration of the distortion that happens when people pass messages along from one to the next. Well, except that it's actually birds passing along the message in this case. A collection of different types of birds (with clothing and other human paraphernalia) is stretched out along a telephone wire. A mother bird says: "Tell Peter: Fly home for dinner." As this message is passed from bird to bird, it becomes more and more different from the original request (though always making some sort of quirky sense). But when the message gets to the wise old owl at the end of the line, the owl is able to filter all of the distortion, and deliver the original message. This, I found to be a highly satisfying ending.
There's not much of a narrative arc to Telephone. But it's a fun little bit of nonsense that illustrates the way that people apply their own biases to messages that they pass along. It's the pelican, with lobster in beak, who hears: "Tell Peter: Lobsters are good hiders." A cap-wearing, tire-magazine-reading bird says: "Tell Peter: My monster truck has big tires." And so on.
Corace's watercolor, ink, and pencil illustrations celebrate the absurdity in the telephone messages. A sweaty, nervous turkey says: "Tell Peter: I'm too high up on this wire." The birds are all uniquely patterned, with expressive faces and memorable accessories.
I'm not sure how well this stream-of-consciousness story, which is basically one long joke, will hold up to repeat readings. But it's a nice, light-hearted introduction to the risks of the game of Telephone, with pictures full of details to please young readers. Definitely worth a look for libraries that server preschoolers.
Publisher: Chronicle Books (@ChronicleKids)
Publication Date: September 9, 2014
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
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