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Children’s book, "Mr. Mouthful," teaches kids—and adults—the virtue of speaking plainly

Jan 19, 2018

Credit Iguana Books, 2017

Lawyers are not known for their clarity, and Joseph Kimble knows this well.

Kimble was a professor of legal writing at Western Michigan University’s Cooley Law School for 35 years. He has since switched gears and written a children’s book about a windbag whose highfalutin' talk causes trouble and confusion for kids. He joined Stateside to discuss the inspiration behind Mr. Mouthful Learns His Lesson

Listen to the full conversation above, or read highlights below.

On writing a children’s book

After teaching law students to write with precision and clarity for 35 years, Kimble said, “I just thought I’d like to try something different.”

“The main reason I wrote [Mr. Mouthful] was just to see, can I write something that will make kids laugh? That was the main goal, just to put this guy into some silly situations and see if I could get a smile out of kids."

How does Mr. mouthful talk?

“One kid is heading toward a wall on his bike,  and he’s not paying attention. He’s just blasting along on his bike. Mr. Mouthful, instead of saying, ‘Watch out!’ says, ‘Please be advised. You proceed at too rapid a speed, you should engage—,’ By this time, of course, the kid has already hit the wall.”

On the benefit of teaching young kids to speak plainly

“If there’s a message in here, and again, that’s not the main point of the book—the book is just meant to be fun—but if there’s a message here, I guess it’s a message for adults: Speak plainly to kids.”

“Having a big vocabulary is a wonderful thing, and I don’t want to discourage kids from having a big vocabulary. But it’s one thing to have a big vocabulary, it’s another thing to go around showing it off in everyday life.”

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