Yaks yak over tea, bats bat baseballs and steers steer bumper cars in the thoroughly delightful picture book Yaks Yak: Animal Word Pairs by Newbery Medalist Linda Sue Park (A Single Shard).
Children will giggle over this entertaining parade of animal homographs (words with different meanings that are spelled and pronounced the same, such as the animal slug and the verb slug)--but illustrator Jennifer Black Reinhardt (The Inventor's Secret) takes the witty wordplay to another dimension with her elaborate watercolor-and-ink paintings of apes aping, ducks ducking and fish fishing. In "Bugs bug bugs," one beetle is bugging another beetle by tossing small objects at it, a bee is buzzing a praying mantis and a grasshopper is flinging a moth off a stem of grass. In "Flounders flounder," five flounders are mid-crisis underwater, with thought bubbles that say "I did not mean to do that" and "I don't know where I am." One badger badgers another in hopes of procuring his apple, and here, big speech bubbles are stuffed with funny handwritten entreaties ("I really, really, REALLY would like that apple," etc.) Each beautifully composed spread includes a definition of the noun that's used as a verb ("to bug=to annoy," "to flounder=to be helpless"), and a word-pair guide in the back explains word origins of both the animal's name (badger) and the action (to badger).
Young readers will no doubt start "parroting" all these splendid new words, from the hogs hogging apples (the sign says "These are NOT for you Keep AWAY" to the crows crowing "It's good to be me." --Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness
★ 12/14/2015 Perfectly pitched to its audience, this clever introduction to animal-themed homographs also works as a vocabulary lesson and a catchy read-aloud. Park (Xander’s Panda Party) and Reinhardt (The Inventor’s Secret) make an ideal team as they introduce an array of animals paired with verbs that share their names: “Cranes crane” their elongated necks in one spread, while “Slugs slug slugs” with boxing gloves. “Ack! I’m upside down! I’m upside down!” yells a floundering flounder, and one badger badgers another about the apple it’s carrying, his longwinded pleas too big to fit in the speech bubbles above his head. Things only get wilder as “bats bat” during a midair baseball game, cows drive bumper cars (“Steers steer”), and a ram accidentally rams a duck, forcing the ducks on the following page to, well, you get the idea. Succinct definitions are tucked into the illustrations (“to crow = to boast”), and back matter offers etymological notes about the animal names and verbs. Gleeful linguistic fun that kids will wolf down. Ages 4–7. Author’s agent: Ginger Knowlton, Curtis Brown. Illustrator’s agent: Marietta Zacker, Nancy Gallt Literary Agency. (Mar.)
From the Publisher
"Details such as hats and teacups carry through from picture to picture, and on each spread the animal’s behavior and interaction with other animals of its kind are spot-on...Children will recognize the behaviors from their fellow humans while learning new vocabulary in a memorable way." –Horn Book
• "Gleeful linguistic fun that kids will wolf down." –Publishers Weekly, STARRED review
• "Animal and word lovers alike will enjoy this clever take on homographs..." –School Library Journal, STARRED review
"Young readers will love this hilarious, informative book." –Booklist
School Library Journal
★ 12/01/2015 Gr 1–4—Animal and word lovers alike will enjoy this clever take on homographs, in this case, verbs that are spelled and pronounced like animal names. Each spread features a comical illustration of animals engaged in unusual activities. A short sentence such as "Flounders flounder" or "Dogs dog dogs" appears on the verso, with a definition of the verb on the recto. Thus, yaks yak over tea, quails quail at an imposing dragon kite, bats bat baseballs in a midnight sky, and pairs of slugs slug slugs with red boxing gloves. A final spread offers a chart of the word pairs followed by the derivation of the animal's name as well as that of the action word. In some cases the verb refers to the animal's behavior, such as ape, parrot, and ram. In other cases, one seemingly has nothing to do with the other, as in quail, steer, and kid. The vibrant, amusing watercolor-and-ink illustrations introduce youngsters to some words and animals they may not know. They are occasionally enhanced with funny speech bubbles such as upside down flounders remarking, "I did not mean to do that" or relentless badgers begging an apple, "Be kind…give me the apple…you don't need…[it]…. You could stand to lose a few pounds…." or greedy hogs hoarding piles of apples with signs like "MINE ALL MINE!" Other whimsical touches, such as a small fish fishing for The Book of Compliments will offer knowing readers a chuckle. VERDICT An original and fun way to build vocabulary.—Barbara Auerbach, New York City Public Schools
2015-11-25 Park and Reinhardt present 18 animal homograph pairs that illustrate for readers what they mean. While the text is intentionally simple to the extreme—"Bugs bug bugs"—the watercolor-and-ink illustrations slyly complete the meanings for readers. In this case, bugs of all sorts set out to annoy one another in any way possible: one beetle chucks seeds at another, a cockroach plugs the ants' hole, etc. In each double-page spread, Reinhardt unobtrusively places the definition of each word: "to bug = to annoy," though the language in these is sometimes difficult and will require adult help ("to ape = to mimic," for instance). Other animals include flounder, quail, ape, parrot, badger, slug, crane, and crow. The illustrations provide just enough details to make the meanings clear and to entertain readers—tail feathers are on prominent display on the "Duck, ducks!" page, and no child will forget the memorable "Steers steer" page, showing bovines driving bumper cars. The animals sport slightly anthropomorphized facial expressions that are easy to read. Backmatter presents a chart of the 18 words and the origins of both the animal name and the action. An excellent and entertaining vocabulary builder: pair this with Betsy Rosenthal's An Ambush of Tigers, 2015, illustrated by Jago, for more clever, educational wordplay. (Picture book. 4-10)