Monday, February 29, 2016

Calling All Logophiles! Yaks Yak: Animal Word Pairs by Linda Sue Park


English lends itself to wordplay, fun with word curiosities, and being an omnivore of a language, it snaps up a useful word wherever it is found and puts it to work with glee.

Award-winning author Linda Sue Park makes good use of a series of homographs, words that are written and sound the same, but may or may not be related etymologically.

For example, yaks don't, er, actually yak. (The verb to yak may be derived from a Yiddish verb meaning to be a busybody.) Steers don't steer anything, and bats don't come to bat and swing for the fences.

But crows do crow, crying raucously when they discover some delicious food for themselves. Quails freeze in the ground cover when danger approaches, so we can safely say quails do quail! Apes ape each other in monkey see, monkey do behavior, and parrots clearly parrot any sound that pleases them. Dogs trail each other around, dogging their steps, and hogs are definitely famous for hogging the swill and pigging out!

All of these oddities are fodder for a born logophile, and in her latest, Yaks Yak: Animal Word Pairs (Houghton Mifflin Clarion, 2016), Newbery Medalist Linda Sue Park explores these quirks of language with writerly relish, aided and abetted comically by Jennifer Black Reinhardt's terrific animal caricatures. Her yaks hunch over their tea table, clearly gossiping with glee, her slugs slug other slugs with little red boxing gloves, and her hogs hog their apple hoard like Scrooge pinched his pennies. Her crows flaunt their own banners, proclaiming their feathers the shiniest and their worm-catching the finest, and sturdy steers a the wheel attempt to control their bumper cars at the carnival.

Knowing that sight gags are the main attraction for young readers, Park and Reinhardt design double-page spreads that set off each animal word pair with elan, adding a little relevant definition to each page, (e.g., to ram: to strike horizontally) to identify the animal and featured verb, and a glossary of each term and its presumed etymology is appended for hard-core wordniks.

This book is a delight of concept and execution. Word-loving kids will soon be playing with their new-found verbs, yakking and crowing, badgering and dogging each other, or, as Park points out, kids are sure to kid each other!

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