The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo (9780062662804)
Released March 6, 2018.
Xiomara feels completely unheard and smothered by her mother’s high expectations, particularly those around church and confirmation. She knows how to use her fists to settle arguments, often coming to the defense of her twin brother. She ignores the lewd glances of the men around her who react to her curves far too often. Xiomara’s mother refuses to allow her to date, so when she catches her daughter kissing someone, there are real consequences. Still, Xiomara continues to find her voice. She asks questions at confirmation and eventually joins the school’s poetry club. Xiomara’s passion for words, slam poetry and speaking out won’t stay hidden from her mother for much longer.
Written by a famed slam poet, this book is ferociously written, taking life and putting it on the page with an honesty that almost hurts. The entire verse novel is beautifully written and each poem is a study in how to capture a moment in time with clarity. There are some poems that shine, the anger burning so brightly that they can’t be ignored. They beg to be read aloud into a microphone.
Xiomara’s character is complex and amazing. She is a girl just finding her voice, emerging from the huge shadow her mother has cast and finding her own way forward. She is a mix of sensuality, verse and anger that is completely intoxicating.
One of the best verse novels I have ever read, this one deserves a standing ovation. Appropriate for ages 14-18.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Edelweiss and HarperTeen.
#NotYourPrincess edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale (9781554519576)
This is one powerful book about the experience and strength of Native women. The book is a collection of art, stories, poems and interviews of and by Indigenous women. The pieces in the book explore the intersectionality of being both Indigenous and female, demonstrating with a searing cry the damage done by abuse and stereotypes. There is power in the book, strong voices that insist on being heard and no longer being invisible in our modern world.
This book fights back against the harmful boxes that our society puts Native women in, labeling them with stereotypes of drunkenness or princess. This book shows instead the wide range of Native voices with art and words that shout on the page. Both the art and textual pieces are impressive separately, but put together into a whole, the book becomes more than its pieces. The result is a brilliant collection, building piece by piece. It is not an easy read, but one that is honest and raw.
Beautiful, angry and insistent, this collection of the voices of Native women belongs on the shelves of every library serving teens. Appropriate for ages 13-17.
Reviewed from library copy.
Things to Do by Elaine Magliaro, illustrated by Catia Chien (9781452111247, Amazon)
Follow the path of a day in this poetic picture book. Little things in life are captured on the page along with weather and seasons. The book begins with dawn and the things that dawn does, then moves to the outdoors with birds and acorns. Sun, sky and eventually moon appear and do their things as well. Rain arrives, boots come out. There are spiders, snails and crickets that appear too. Each given a poem about what they do and the small beauties they create in our world.
Magliaro’s poetry is exceptional. On the very first page, readers are drawn into viewing the world through her lens that looks at small things, captures them and then moves on to the next. Each poem is separate but linked, creating an entire universe of things to do and things to see. The poetry is sometimes rhymed, sometimes not, often ending in a rhyming couplet. It is the rhythm that ties it together, moving forward, lingering and then onward.
Chien’s illustrations are soft and ethereal. She creates dawn light then bright sun and finally a huge moon that fills the pages. Each time of day is unique and special, given space on the page to shine. There is a rough softness to the images, landscapes that blur rain that shimmers.
A top-notch poetic read for children, this book celebrates small moments made large. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.
Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets by Kwame Alexander with Chris Colderley and Marjory Wentworth, illustrated by Ekua Holmes (9780763680947, Amazon)
This book is an exploration of famous poets through poems in their honor. Each one captures a sense of that poet whether it is in format itself or subject matter or simply a frame of mind. Turning the pages, one encounters new poets but also old friends. It is with those poets that one knows well that the book truly shines, the homage is clear and the cleverness of the poetry is wonderful.
I read many shining reviews of this book and still was unprepared for how great it is. This is a book that should be part of poetry units in elementary school. It shows two sides of poetry, both paying respect to poets who have gone before but also creating in poetic form a real honor for their work. It’s smart, clever and so beautifully done. As I turned the pages to discover some of my favorite poets on the page, I found myself smiling with delight and amazement as that poet was revealed via poetry.
The illustrations by Holmes are also a way that the poets themselves are depicted on the page. They vary from a focus on a bowl of oatmeal for Billy Collins to zinging reds and oranges and yellows for Rumi to a natural focus for Mary Oliver and Neruda. The varied illustrations also imitate the focus on structure or free style that each poet uses; they are adept reflections of the poet and their poetry.
This book belongs in every elementary school collection and every public library. It is extraordinary. Appropriate for ages 7-12.
Reviewed from library copy.
You Belong Here by M.H. Clark (InfoSoup)
This poetic picture book celebrates both nature and the child themselves. The book opens with the text talking right to the child, telling them that just as the moon and stars belong so do they belong right with the person reading the book. It then moves on to talk about different animals and how they belong too either deep in the sea, in the woods, or in a nest. Then the book returns to the child and it continues to move back and forth between nature and child, demonstrating how much that child simply belongs to the world as well.
Told in rhyme, this picture book’s poetry is very well done with none of the rhymes feeling forced. In fact, the text almost dances particularly as it moves between child and nature, each of those transitions feeling a little like a graceful twirl to bring to back around in a circle. There is attention throughout too to ecosystems and showing how each animal or plant has a place that is important and vital to that place. It’s a book that creates both warmth and the opportunity for conversation as well.
The illustrations by Arsenault are subtly colored and almost ethereal. They show the intertwining nature of the world with buildings and homes interspersed with natural scenes of animals and plants. The creatures on the page are almost lit from within, white against the watercolor backgrounds.
A beautiful celebration of home and the world that all sorts of families will find welcoming and heart warming. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.
Guess Who, Haiku by Deanna Caswell, illustrated by Bob Shea (InfoSoup)
Haiku poetry is turned into a guessing game in this delightful picture book. One animal after another is described in haiku format and then the reader is asked to guess what animal it is. The answer is revealed with a turn of the page. This simple idea is engaging for youngsters learning about poetry and also works as a more basic picture book for younger listeners. It is that ease of use that makes this book so engaging for various age levels.
Caswell’s haiku are exceptional in the way they offer clues that children can understand and yet conform to the strict haiku format rules. They also read as haiku and real poems, each one working as a stand-alone haiku as well as a clue in the game of the book. This takes real skill, particularly since it looks so very effortless on the page.
Shea’s illustrations are loud, dynamic and funny. From the almost round bumblebee and the grinning flower to the googly-eyed frog , they are simple and also capture the essence of the animal they are depicting. They are filled with energy and life, making the book all the more fun.
This is the ideal book to introduce children to haiku since it makes the experience completely engaging and game-like. Appropriate for ages 3-7.
Reviewed from copy received from Abrams.
Wet Cement: A Mix of Concrete Poems by Bob Raczka (InfoSoup)
This is a second book of playful and wonderful poems that follows Lemonade: And Other Poems Squeezed from a Single Word. It offers poems that demonstrate over and over again the delight and fun of concrete poetry. Some poems twist and turn, others light up the sky, others read in a different and surprising order, almost forming a puzzle before the reader realizes how to read it. There are poems that zigzag, others that arc, and still others that hang from the top of the page. This is a radiant book of poetry should to create smiles.
Raczka makes concrete poetry look effortless in this book, yet his are so well done that you know they took serious craft to create. I particularly enjoyed the icicle poem, since I haven’t seen one like that. Even more importantly, the words themselves are masterfully done, each poem reading as a true poem and not losing its zing because of the limits of the form.
Brilliant and great fun, this book makes poetry approachable for young children. Appropriate for ages 6-9.
Reviewed from copy received from Roaring Brooks Press.
Echo Echo by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by Josée Masse (InfoSoup)
Singer returns with another collection of her amazing reverso poems this time focusing on Greek mythology. The format which has poems which read one way read forward and another way read in reverse, looks at myths from two divergent points of view. This is particularly effective with Greek myths because they so often have two points of view embedded in them. The poems focus on myths such as Pandora’s box, King Midas, Medusa, Icarus and Narcissus. Though brief, these poems capture the essence of each myth, exposing their complexity in a few choice words and phrases.
Singer has done it again. Her amazing reverso poems must be read with care by young readers who have to pay close attention to punctuation to see the difference in meanings between the two poems. The poems are dazzling as they lay open the themes of each myth, the drama being played out in the story and the differing points of view of the main characters. This is one intelligent display of word play that is incredibly difficult to even imagine doing.
Masse’s illustrations each play upon the theme of different sides or points of view. With visual lines down the middle, the two sides both work together as a whole and show the differences between the two poems. The illustrations echo the poems closely, offering a visual feast in addition to the richness of the words.
Another winner for Singer and her reverso poetry, classrooms teaching mythology will love to have this book on hand for accessible and bite-sized looks at many myths. Appropriate for ages 6-9.
Reviewed from copy received from Dial Books.
Daniel Finds a Poem by Micha Archer (InfoSoup)
When Daniel discovers that there will be Poetry in the Park on Sunday, he begins to wonder what poetry is. The friends he has made in nature help him start to understand it. Spider says that poetry is “morning dew when it glistens.” For Squirrel, it is “when crisp leaves crunch.” Frog sees it as “a cool pool to dive into.” Owl has many ideas about stars, moonlight and her own silent wings. As Daniel listens to all of the creatures, he realizes that he has created a poem, one that lets him see poetry everywhere just as they do.
Archer’s look at poetry is delightful. She shows poetry connected to each creature’s life, each animal having its own unique way of viewing the world and then turning it into something poetic and special. Young readers will understand poetry just as Daniel does, piece by piece, symbol by symbol in an organic and natural way. While Daniel’s poetry at the end is lovely, I really enjoyed that the book had one final moment where Daniel finds his own personal piece of poetry.
Archer’s illustrations are exceptional. Using a layered technique that involves paint, hand-made block prints, and collage, the illustrations are rich and detailed. They have deep colors that sing on the page and a complexity in texture that is particularly pleasing.
A lush and striking book about poetry and its power in everyone’s life. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from ARC received from Nancy Paulsen Books.