Exclamation Mark by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld is a clever picture book filled with punctuation-related puns. Rosenthal and Lichtenheld tell the story of an exclamation mark who is tired of not fitting in with the periods around him. His outlook changes when he meets a question mark, who of course can’t stop asking questions (“Do you like frogs?” “Who’s taller, you or me?” “What’s your favorite color?”). The question mark interrogates him so intensely that the exclamation mark finally has to yell “STOP!” When he shouts this, the exclamation mark discovers his purpose. He had no idea that he had the power to make words into exclamations. He’s so excited that he can’t stop shouting a variety of phrases (“Home run!” “Congratulations!” “Boo!”). He immediately runs to show the periods his discovery and introduce them to his inquisitive new friend.
The illustrations in Exclamation Mark are simple and clean. The mostly black-and-white drawings are set on a background of ruled handwriting paper. When color appears, it has a dramatic effect. It’s used most effectively on the pages where the exclamation mark is discovering his purpose. Each word or phrase he shouts appears in a different color. On most pages, the text and characters sit on the ruled lines as expected, but occasionally they defy these rules. For example, on a page where the exclamation mark is running and shouting, his dialogue is set diagonally, crossing over several sets of ruled lines.
Readers need to use very expressive voices when sharing Exclamation Mark with an audience. The book is filled with exclamatory and interrogative sentences that require special intonation patterns. It’s also important for readers to use effective voice pacing, especially on the page where the question mark is peppering the exclamation mark with a barrage of questions. If a reader goes through the list of questions too slowly, the desired effect will be missing, and the next page (the exclamation mark yelling “STOP!”) won’t be as dramatic. Readers should definitely practice their presentation of Exclamation Mark prior to sharing it with an audience. Though it looks simple at first glance, this book is best for older listeners who have learned about the functions of basic punctuation marks. They will be able to understand the reasons behind the characters’ behavior and catch the pun-based humor. I’ve enjoyed sharing this story with elementary and middle schoolers. I like to make the book more interactive by inviting my audience to read aloud with me from the pages where the exclamation mark is shouting. It’s fun to hear the room fill with a chorus of voices exclaiming, “Look out!” and “Yum!” and “Encore!”
Check the WRL catalog for Exclamation Mark.