While reading Charli’s post in a motel room, I listened to an amazing chorus of birds in the trees outside. They were mostly magpies, but their song was not quite the same as that of the magpies at home, and I found it entrancing. Not long after, I went for a walk down town and serendipitously came across this beautiful tree sculpture with tinkling metal leaves. Would these sound bites be useful in responding to Charli’s challenge?
I have written about sound in other posts.
In Listen to the sounds I discussed the use of onomatopoeia in children’s picture books, including sounds made by:
musical instruments, and
I listed pictures books that make use of each, and included a flash fiction piece about storm sounds.
In Sounds like … I wrote about the natural sounds made by some of our native wildlife; the beautiful music of our song birds heralding changes in the days and seasons; and other more unusual sounds that may alarm the unfamiliar, like that of the brushtail possum.
I wrote about the unnerving sound of mutton birds in response to Charli’s challenge in that post.
In Writing poetry with children I shared the structure of a sound poem and experimented with using the structure to write poems about other senses in a 99-word flash fiction. I also wrote about these poems on the readilearn blog. Instructions for writing the poems are available in readilearn resources, including here and here.
I wasn’t sure where to go this time, and after much consideration, found myself in more of a contemplative mood, stuck between ideas. I did what I suggest to children when they say they don’t know what to write: just write what’s in your head.
Sounds surround us
The deadline looms and I wonder how to extract a 99-word story from my unwilling brain. Contemplation, false starts, abandoned ideas: the well is dry. But listen! Outside, the day fades. Birds serenade folk hurrying homewards and signal the changing shifts. Soon they’ll sleep and the night time chorus will begin. Inside, the computer hums patiently, waiting to tap out the words. In the kitchen, doors creak: pantry then fridge. Vegetables are scraped and rinsed. Water bubbles on the stove. What joy! Yes, I get to eat tonight; but my, how the gift of hearing enriches my world. Gratitude.
Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.
I thought it was quite timely for me as I had just written a piece about audiobooks. However, I have decided to keep that for posting another day and have instead decided to look at picture books. Regular readers may not be surprised.
Picture books are often a child’s first introduction to stories, poems, fantasy and other worlds. The language of picture books is immensely important and must captivate the ear as the illustrations engage the eye. Through picture books children are learning the sounds of the language: its rhythms and intonations; its accents and pronunciations; its beauty and its meaning.
Many picture books are written in rhythmic, rhyming language and we are quick to note when the timing is a little off or the rhyme not quite right. Successful picture book authors write and rewrite until they get the sound of the language just right for a read aloud experience. Though the words may be few, the task may be difficult. Children, their parents, and teachers are a discerning audience.
Animal sounds, familiar through songs such as Old MacDonald Had a Farm, frequently occur in picture books, including Hattie and the Fox and Fancy That!
The sounds of machines are also popular. Some of you may recall the song about The Marvellous Toy that “went zip when it moved, and bop when it stopped, and whirr when it stood still.”
The repetitive rhythmic sound of a train’s motion is frequently portrayed, as in The Train to Timbuctu that went
and The Little Engine that Could with its
“I think I can – I think I can – I think I can – I think I can – I think I can – I think I can – I think I can – I think I can – I think I can.”
“I thought I could. I thought I could. I thought I could. I thought I could. I thought I could. I thought I could.”
A great demonstration of a growth mindset.
There are also the sounds of musical instruments as in Bertie and the Bear.
There are the sounds associated with actions, like the swish of the broomstick and the plop of the hop toad in Old Old Witch;
and those from Going on a Bear Hunt with its swishy swashy of moving through grass, splash splosh of wading through water, and squelch squelch of walking in mud.
Some stories introduce a variety of onomatopoeic words. Night Noises, about a surprise party for Lillie Laceby who was nearly ninety, includes the click clack of car doors opening and closing, the crinch crunch of feet tip-toeing on a garden path, the murmur and mutter of voices whispering, the creak crack of knees, and the snick snack of bolts on the door.
When there’s a Possum in the House or Possum Goes to School, there is nothing but trouble, with possum making a mess at every opportunity.
At home, in the pantry the cornflakes go crunch crunch, in the kitchen the saucepans go clatter clatter, and in the study the pages go rustle rustle. Each time the possum’s whereabouts is discovered, it goes screech screech and runs off to another room to create yet more mess.
The same occurs at school with paints going drip drip in the art room, claws going scratch scratch in the staff room, and the goldfish going splash splash in the science room.
Then of course, there are also the body noises that children seem to take delight in, like those from Burping Baby.
I recently discovered Lauri Fortino’s Frog on a [B]log, a blog celebrating picture books. Lauri has a delightful picture book of her own The Peddler’s Bed, illustrated by Bong Redila. Lauri recently shared a reading of the story on her blog. Since we are talking about sounds, if you have a few spare minutes, pop over and have a listen. You will also find an example of onomatopoeia in her story with the repetition of squeak squeak squeak.
Onomatopoeic words are often presented in fonts of different size or colour, or even different type. Children are fascinated by them, pointing to, asking about, maybe even recognising them, long before they are able to recognise any other words. You can help to get them started by pointing to the words and inviting them to join in the hullabaloo. What a great introduction to the world of reading.
Now that I have reminded you of these types of onomatopoeia and provided you with these wonderful examples, I wonder what I was thinking. How can I match them in my flash? I need a flash of inspiration, or maybe a flash of lightning to begin my story about a mother and child hurrying to make it home before the storm hits. I hope you enjoy it.
The eye of the storm
Pit pitter-patter Pat pitter-patter hasten four feet.
Lightning and thunder boom down the street.
“H-h-h-hurry.” Mum urges. “Home – nearly there.”
Pit scuffle-scuffle Pat scuffle-scuffle “Straight up the stair.”
Clink-chink-fumble-fumble “No need to knock.”
Scritch-scratch “I’ve managed – the key’s in the lock.”
Whoosh! chortles wind, as it rushes inside.
Damn! cusses chair chucked onto its side.
P-u-sh! The door bangs! Avoid pellets of ice
Smashing and tumbling like millions of dice.
Rat-a-tat raindrops, another crash-boom!
Shuffle and scurry. “Straight to the safe room.”
Huddled together, hardly daring to breathe,
Listening and waiting for the monster to leave.
Then sudden quiet, the child whispers hope
“Is it all over?” Mum answers, “Nope.”
The first fifteen lines meet Charli’s 99 work criteria. I added the last two because I was thinking of the eye of a storm that brings a quiet calm but not the end of the storm – there’s still more to come. I’d love to know what you think.
Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.