Thursday, July 24, 2008

How Tweet It Is!

----Open it anywhere, and you’ll be cackling. Hop among the pages, and you’ll find flocks of facts, funny lines and bright, clever pictures. Reach the end (“…and crown thy good with birdyhood…”) and start capering again through of United Tweets of America (Putnam). ----This new work by GreeneLand’s Hudson Talbott is touted, like his other 16 titles, as a book for children. That pigeon-holing may serve to legitimatize the use of secondary material and the elevation, to equal status with words, of illustrations. But the designation also can mislead. While it’s great fun indeed for kids, as proved abundantly by raucous empirical tests, United Tweets is apt to be even greater fun for grown-ups ------------------------- (Click on picture to enlarge) They will appreciate the special knowledge-tapping jokes. Thus, the Garden State’s American Goldfinch is said to be noteworthy for “the male’s bright yellow summer plumage color and a flight pattern that looks as if he’s weaving through traffic on the Jersey Turnpike.” Oklahoma’s official insect, game bird, mammals, and reptile all shout “OK!” on the Sooner State page of United Tweets, and its Scissortail Flycatcher reportedly “catches insects in midair, does spectacular aerial displays and aggressively defends his territory when he’s not singing show tunes.” On the South Dakota page, Talbott adds the State’s Ring-Necked Pheasant pictorially to the heroic figures on Mount Rushmore. Colorado’s Lark Bunting is shown hunting, punting (a football) and, of course, bunting. (Do we call that graphic punning?). Connecticut’s American Robin trills the official State song with new lyrics: “Yankee Doodle” went to town, followed by a chicken. If that bird won’t shut his beak, he’s gonna get a lickin’.” Among surprises provided by United Tweets is the fact that the book promises less (cluck) than it delivers (cluck cluck). While the sub-title promises “50 State Birds, Their Stories, Their Glories” the contents deliver 51 stories, the bonus being The District of Columbia, with its Wood Thrush who “pecked his way” to “the lawns of power,” achieving an “appointment” which is permanent although “Some in Congress are now calling for term limits.” ----- Similarly, United Tweets hatches a lot more than State bird pictures and stories. It names capitals, flowers, mottos (Canyon/Natural/Peach/Sunshine/Golden/Sooner/Volunteer/Show Me State) and, in various cases (determined, we venture to guess, for the fun of it) the State sport (dog sledding in Alaska), insect, vegetable, musical instrument (in Arkansas, the fiddle), mammal, tree, gem, necktie (“bolo tie” in AZ), dance (in South Carolina, the shag) and other distinctions. Alaska equals 11 Alabamas or 425 Rhode Islands. Maine supplies 90% of U.S. lobsters and toothpicks. Chicago is home to the world’s biggest cookie factory while Stuttgart, Arkansas, hosts the world championship duck-calling contest. Abraham Lincoln’s nose on Mount Rushmore is bigger than the head of the Sphinx in Egypt. In Iowa, for every human there are five hogs. . The Western Meadowlark reigns in six States, including Wyoming, where it exhibits “jackaloping skills,” the reference being to an elusive animal that may be “a cross between an antelope and a killer jackrabbit.” Aretha Franklin, Dolly Parton, Minnie Pearl, Tina Turner and Ernie Ford are “famous Tennessingers.” Georgia’s Brown Thrasher, known for its “rich variety of songs and beautiful voice,” suits the homeland of Ray Charles, Gladys Knight, Otis Redding, Little Richard, Jessye Norman, Brenda Lee, Amy Grant, Travis Tritt, Trisha Yearwood. Wisconsin’s “unofficial motto” is “Where Cheeseheads ride Harleys.” And so on. ----------------- ---------- (Click on picture to read text!) --with thanks to John Shadley for help with graphic inserts.

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