About the Holiday
It may be safe to say that one of the first inventors children learn about is Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of telephone. In the late 1800s, the need for a better communication device was well recognized, and various people were at work on a solution. Bell, was the first to apply for a patent—awarded on March 7, 1876—and so the acclaim goes to him. Communication had always been a part of Bell’s life. His father had developed a “visible speech” system for deaf students, and he himself was a teacher at a boy’s boarding school. On May10, 1876, the first public demonstration of the telephone occurred at the Philadelphia World’s Fair. The Bell Telephone Company was founded on July 9, 1877, and the one millionth telephone was installed in May of 1967. To celebrate today’s holiday, call someone—okay, or text—and marvel over this indispensable invention and how far it has come.
Written by Mac Barnett | Illustrated by Jen Corace
Above a little row of houses and two children playing, a group of very disparate birds sit along the telephone wire. Mama pigeon, holding a nice, steaming potpie, has a message for her little Peter. She turns to Cardinal and says, “Tell Peter: Fly home for dinner.” The cardinal, with a baseball bat tucked under his wing, turns to the goose sitting next to him and says Peter should “hit pop flies and homers.”
Ostrich, outfitted in an old aviator’s hat and carrying a map, hears the message a bit differently. While gazing out at the small craft zipping through the sky, he whispers into Ostrich’s ear to tell Peter jus who it is that uses “prop planes.” Ostrich has the day’s cleaning on her mind and tells the titmouse what Peter should do with his “wet socks.” The titmouse, with a guitar slung over her shoulder and perhaps a bit of hope in her heart, hears, “Tell Peter, rock stars are admired.”
The Toucan has his binoculars trained on a passel of crocodiles down below and has some words of warning for Peter. Pelican, meanwhile, is playing hide and seek with Lobster and has some words of praise for these wily crustaceans. Duck is preoccupied with monster truck tires, and turkey is a little concerned about being so “high up on this wire.”
By now moms down below are cooking dinner and calling their kids home. The robin smells smoke and tells the chicken he’s afraid there’s a fire. The chicken, channeling her inner Henny Penny, puts it all together and with a touch of hysteria tells the owl to warn Peter of a smelly, crocodile-riding, fire-breathing monster of a lobster who’s coming to eat him. The owl opens one skeptical eye, then turns nonchalantly to the young birds hanging out and blowing bubble gum bubbles and says, “Hey, Peter, your mom says fly home for dinner.”
Mac Barnett’s perfectly goofy read aloud will have kids giggling and eagerly anticipating what interpretation could possibly come next in this story that’s just right for fun story times when you just want to laugh out loud. An enthusiastic reading ramps up the humor and the droll ending.
Jen Corace’s witty illustrations of each bird and their particular preoccupation give eagle-eyed readers clues to how Mama bird’s simple message may be mangled next. The ostrich uses a feather duster to tidy up the goose, the titmouse wears star-shaped sunglasses, and the chicken, with her wild topknot of feathers puts new meaning into the term “wired” with her over-the-top dire warning.
Surprising from one side of the telephone pole to the other, Telephone is a fantastic choice for dialing up fun at home or in the classroom.
Ages 4 – 8
Chronicle Books, 2014 | ISBN 978-1452110233
Discover more about Mac Barnett and his many books on his website.
To learn more about Jen Corace, her books, and her art, visit her website.
Have you heard? It’s the Telephone book trailer!
National Telephone Day Activity
Telephone Tie-Up Puzzle
These kids want to use a telephone. Can you follow the tangled wires to find a phone for each child in this Telephone Tie-Up Puzzle?
Picture Book Review