The book uses five types of birds – cardinal, indigo bunting, blue jay, goldfinch and oriole – to teach verb tenses. Verbs used in the stories are those "pesky," irregular verbs. Regular verbs are easy to learn because they retain the root word, e.g. look, looked, has looked. Irregular verbs are harder to learn because the present, past and past participle are completely different. See, saw, have seen. Fly, flew, have flown. Break, broke, has broken.
Klickna's grandson was the inspiration for her to write this book. She would often sit with him in her favorite rocking chair on her porch, looking out the window at her many bird feeders. She started telling him stories about the birds when he was only a few months old. He continues to enjoy looking out the window at the many birds that venture into her backyard, from cardinals to wild turkeys. This experience became the foundation for the book. Playing on the phrase "out of the mouths of babes," Klickna titled her book Out of the Beaks of Birds.
The book provides a fun way for children – and adults – to learn the proper use of verbs. "Hearing correct usage forms a good foundation for learning in kindergarten and beyond," says Klickna. "With repetition and practice, these verbs can be mastered." Many of the stories use words that are recommended for children to know before starting kindergarten.
Klickna drew on her long career in education to write this book, which is illustrated by Jim Edwards, a teacher colleague who taught art for over 30 years. For more than 25 years Klickna taught middle and high school English in Springfield District 186. She was active in the teachers union and held leadership roles in the Illinois Education Association (IEA), retiring in 2017 after serving six years as IEA president. She's been a freelance writer for over 30 years.
The book is designed for teachers, parents, grandparents and caregivers to use with preschoolers as well as those in early elementary grades. Older children who can read will also enjoy the stories. Birds are used in illustrations, and the verb tenses are printed in the same color as the bird. Information about each of the five birds is included, along with pictures and links to bird songs. Children, and perhaps even adults, will hear and see the correct ways to use crazy, pesky verbs.
Karen Ackerman Witter and Cinda Ackerman Klickna are frequent contributors to Illinois Times. They are sisters. At a young age, Cinda liked to play school; she was the teacher and Karen was her student.