Tag Archive | poetry

I Am Alfonso Jones, student shot by police. By Tony Medina, illustrated by Stacey Robinson & John Jennings (book review)

book cover of I Am Alfonso Jones, by Tony Medina, illustrated by Stacey Robinson & John Jennings. Published by Tu Books. | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Choked, shot, beaten,
arrested, imprisoned on minor charges,
how many black men are gone now?

This graphic novel traces the shortened life of son, friend, musician, bicycle messenger, history scholar Alfonso and the stories of other African Americans killed by police brutality.

Robinson and Jennings’ black and white illustrations expand the #blacklivesmatter narrative written by Tony Medina, whose poems are recited at the Poetry Protest that Alfonso can see and hear as his ghost drifts from the train to his neighborhood and back…

Check out Medina’s article describing how he created this non-stereotypical Puerto Rican Black teen who loves his community’s history so deeply – why should a such a talented young man be dead?

Where is justice? How can everyday people stop the violence?
**kmm

Book info: I Am Alfonso Jones / Tony Medina, illustrated by Stacey Robinson & John Jennings. Tu Books, 2017. [author site] [artist Robinson tumblr] [artist Jennings interview] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My Book Talk: Buying his first suit shouldn’t get him shot, shouldn’t keep him from seeing Dad finally home from prison with his name cleared, shouldn’t stop him from trying out for ‘Hip-Hop Hamlet’ at his arts high school in NYC, shouldn’t prevent him from telling bestie Danetta how he really feels about her…

On a subway train filled with ghosts of other African Americans wrongly killed, Alfonso learns more than his history studies revealed – about injustice, unfair treatment, deliberate abuse and prejudice – but dead is dead…

The Black-Puerto Rican young man’s family, friends, and community rally for justice and the prosecution of the police officer who shot Alfonso dead in this too-real #blacklivesmatter graphic novel.

Authors & illustrators share their childhood works in Our Story Begins, edited by Elissa Brent Weissman (book review)

book cover of Our Story Begins, edited by Elissa Brent Weissnman. Published by Atheneum/Simon & Schuster | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Looking forward to a new year,
looking back over the past –
writers and artists do this, too!

You’ll recognize so many of your favorite authors and illustrators of works for kids and young adults in the “About the Author” section at the publisher’s webpage for this book!

So think about the stories you wrote in earlier years, the comic strips you drew, the plays that you put on for your family, the news reports that you made as a kid.

A new year, new opportunities, what will you begin?
**kmm

Book info: Our Story Begins: Children’s Authors and Illustrators Share Fun, Inspiring, and Occasionally Ridiculous Things They Wrote and Drew as Kids / edited by Elissa Brent Weissman. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, hardcover 2017, paperback 2018. [editor site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: “When did you start drawing? When did you know that you wanted to write books?” These frequent questions from young readers are answered by 25 of our favorite authors and illustrators – with examples of their very early works – in this anthology which will inspire a new generation of creators.

A grade-school photo from each author and illustrator begins their chapter which includes reproductions of their childhood stories or drawings in crayon, pencil, pen, or typing.

There’s a photo of author Elissa Brent Weissman as a kid with Gordon Korman at his book signing, then turn to Korman’s chapter to read his fifth-grade speech “How to Handle Your Parents”.

Kwame Alexander’s mom still has his first-ever poem (to her on Mother’s Day) framed in her living room. Thanhha Lai and her family fled Vietnam during her childhood, but she can still recite the story-poem “A Bird in a Cage” that she told her mother over and over.

Illustrators’ talents as kids ranged from polished (Grace Lin) to rudimentary (Jarrett J. Krosoczka – graphic novels), and several authors say that they copied their favorite writers’ styles in early stories – all continued to work at their craft and work to be published.


Hope the journey is worth it for Charlie and Me: 421 Miles from Home, by Mark Lowery (book review)

US book cover of Charlie and Me, by Mark Lowery, published by Yellow Jacket Books| recommended on BooksYALove.com

US cover

UK book cover of Charlie and Me, by Mark Lowery, published by Yellow Jacket Books | recommended on BooksYALove.com

UK cover

It was the best vacation their family ever had,
Charlie loved the dolphins, Martin loved the sea…
Just have to go back, recapture the good times!

Most middle grade guys wouldn’t voluntarily take their very individual younger brother on a very long train trip, but Martin isn’t most guys: his extremely different brother has been his annoyance and best friend since Charlie’s premature birth ten years ago.

So if Charlie would be happiest seeing the dolphins again at the seacoast hundreds of miles away, then that’s what Martin will do! No need to involve ever-sad Mum and always-working Dad – not the same since that vacation…

Us or UK cover – which do you prefer for this journey saga?
**kmm

Book info: Charlie and Me: 421 Miles From Home / Mark Lowery. Yellow Jacket Books (Bonnier), 2018. [author site]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Getting back to the Cornwall seaside town where they saw the dolphins will make Charlie so happy that 13-year-old Martin takes all his savings, puts their favorite Christmas cookie tin in his pack, and heads to the train station with his neurologically special little brother – later, they’ll update their parents…

If the Dolphinwatch app is correct, they can get to the coast just in time…
As long as the railway police don’t stop them, like Mum and Dad would have if Martin had told them his plans…

Will the Angry Girl they meet on the third train (or maybe fourth) help them or not?
What if they run out of money on the way or Charlie has another asthma attack?
Can Martin really pull this off for his best-bud, pain-in-the-youknowwhat, dolphin-obsessed little brother?

Each chapter begins with the distance traveled (mostly in the right direction) and one of Martin’s poems as the two brothers traverse England on this singular journey.

T = Typewriter Rodeo! by Jodi Egerton, David Fruchter, Kari Ann Holt, Sean Petrie (book review)

book cover of Typewriter Rodeo, by Jodi Egerton, David Fruchter, Sean Petrie, Kari Holt. Published by Andrews McMeel | recommended on BooksYALove.comFree poems while you wait!
Click-clack of manual typewriter keys,
Insights on paper, to keep.

No surprise that Typewriter Rodeo began at an Austin, Texas craft fair in 2013 – four writers creating immediate poetry on portable (and not-so-portable) old typewriters.

This new book collects photos of some poems (which are handed over to their requestors) and the stories behind their creation, from “It’s Valentine’s Weekend…” by Kari Anne for a loved, lost, then refound couple in Austin to “Jeannie” by Sean in honor of a roller-skating, table-waiting cafe owner in Maine.

Yes, the quartet will lug their manual typewriters to your event, far or near, to bring instant poetry on whatever subject they are asked!

What would you request at the Typewriter Rodeo?
**kmm

Book info: Typewriter Rodeo: Real People, Real Stories, Custom Poems / Jodi Egerton, David Fruchter, Kari Ann Holt, Sean Petrie. Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2018. [project website] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.


Yummy poems in A Moose Boosh: a Few Choice Words About Food, by Eric-Shabazz Larkin (book review)

book cover of A Moose Boosh, by Eric-Shabazz Larkin, published by Readers to Eaters | recommended on BooksYALove.comAs cooking show star,
As farmer in the city,
kids dream and delight in food!

Good food can help us as much as good medicine, as these food-filled poems and their embellished photos show.

Look for this so-yummy poetry collection at your local library or independent bookstore.

Fave food poem??
**kmm

Book info: A Moose Boosh: A Few Choice Words About Food / Eric-Shabazz Larkin. Readers to Eaters, 2014. [author site] [book Facebook page] [publisher site] Review copy, cover image, and page images courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Slippery noodles in rhythm and rhyme, dreams of bread and my own cooking show fill this book of fun food poems.

Why did the chef send a moose that I didn’t order?
What did the corn say to the cob?
Where does food grow? Where did my pet cabbage go?

Readers will enjoy sampling these “choice words” about all stages of food – fancy or plain, appetizer to dessert – with doodled-up photos to match.
poem "A Desk is Not a Dinner Table" from A Moose Boosh by Eric-Shabazz Larkin | recommended on BooksYALove.com

On their Lion Island, young people of Cuba dream and rebel, by Margarita Engle (book review)

book cover of Lion Island, by Margarita Engle, published by Atheneum BFYR | recommended on BooksYALove.comSongs for freedom,
words as power –
freedom from Spain, from slavery?

Did you know about Chinese immigrants who fled to Cuba, escaping racist attacks in America? They struggled for freedom from unfair indenture alongside enslaved Africans during the days when Cuba sought its independence from Spain – so many stories forgotten, lost, found, retold.

Look for this historical novel-in-verse at your local library or independent bookstore in hardcover or paperback.

Could you leave your homeland for safety, then leave again?
**kmm

Book info: Lion Island: Cuba’s Warrior of Words / Margarita Engle. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, hardcover 2016, paperback 2017.  [author site]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: At the confluence of Cuban, Chinese, and African cultures, poetic voices of three young people tell the stories of arrival and broken promises, despair and hope, love and the future during their island home’s early years as a nation.

To learn the proper Spanish that his Chinese mother never knew, Antonio’s African father sends him to school in La Habana city.

As he runs errands within the Chinese community for wealthy men displaced from California by anti-Asian prejudice in the post-Gold Rush years, the 12 year old meets twin sister and brother Fan and Wing.

Antonio hears stories of unfairness and change, falls in love with words, wonders if they have true power.

Fan runs away from the sugarcane fields, from forced marriage – to sing and write songs and sing true.

Wing remembers being forced from their California home, wants to help the rebels in Cuba’s mountains.

Months roll into years as the three young people help hide escaped slaves, read letters of protest sent to China and Madrid, long for power over their own lives.

Lyrically, poetically, alternating voices relate the struggles of indentured Chinese workers and enslaved African people fighting for their freedom in the 1870s as Cuba strives for independence from Spain.

Poetry? I’m Just No Good at Rhyming, says Chris Harris (book review)

book cover of I'm Just No Good at Rhyming, by Chris Harris, illustrated by Lane Smith, published by Little Brown | recommended on BooksYALove.comPoems must rhyme?
Poems may rhyme?
To the poet, does it matter?

If you want your funny bone tickled, your visual imagination charmed, and that soft part of your heart bumped a bit, this is the poetry book for you!

Happy book birthday to I’m No Good at Rhyming!

Hope to see more versified silliness (with a bit of seriousness) from debut poet (longtime TV writer) Chris Harris (who is pretty good at rhyming after all) and well-known illustrator Lane Smith (he wrote It’s a Book; he draws humorous pictures; he argues with the author!) in the future.

Which style of poetry is your favorite?
**kmm

Book info: I’m Just No Good at Rhyming, and Other Nonsense for Mischievous Kids and Immature Adults / by Chris Harris; illustrated by Lane Smith. Little, Brown: 2017.  [illustrator site]  [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Lengthy poems, short poems, serious ones, and silly ones (lots of silly ones) fill this collection aimed at kids and grownups so they can read and smile together.

Enjoy the wise words in “The Valleys Shape the Mountains”, good advice in “Just Be Yourself”, and utter(ed) nonsense in “Yes Means No and No Means Yes…”

Illustrations by Lane Smith add to the fun of “Alphabet Book (by the laziest artist in the world)” and sideways-across-the-pages short verse about “The Hungry Giraffe”

You should never laugh at a hungry giraffe;
It takes him so long to swallow,
He may have eaten yesterday —
But he won’t feel full till tomallow. (pp. 44-45)

Debut author Harris may claim that he’s “no good at rhyming” but readers won’t believe it, just as they won’t believe how many poems he can make from one entitled “The Door” or the way that “L-O-V-E” winds up spelled in its poem or why some page numbers are missing in this fun volume (even “without William Shakespeare”) as the author and illustrator banter throughout.

Z is for Zlatka, making Paper Hearts secretly in Auschwitz (book review) by Meg Wiviott

book cover of Paper Hearts by Meg Wiviott published by Margaret K. McElderry Books | recommended on BooksYALove.comForbidden in Auschwitz:
humanity, relationships, possessions,
and yet…

Her life forfeit if discovered, Zlatka rises above despair in the death camp by celebrating another year of friend Fania’s life with a paper origami heart, crafted in secret.

See the actual paper heart today in the Montreal Holocaust Museum – how fragile things like paper and hope can survive such hate…

As National Poetry Month closes, this novel in verse based on a true story of friendships opens our hearts.
**kmm

Book info: Paper Hearts / Meg Wiviott. Margaret K. McElderry Books, hardcover 2015, paperback 2016.  [author site]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Pulled from their Jewish families in different Polish hometowns to this terrible place, this death camp, young women Zlatka and Fania find hidden ways to bolster their spirits as they try to stay alive.

The guards turn girl against girl, and girls try anything to get another ration of moldy bread. Forced to work as slaves in a German metal factory making bomb casings instead of bowls, Zlatka and Fania and a few others do their best to be human to one another.

Watching the seasons pass, praying to Adonai in whispers no one can hear. As winter comes near, Zlatka decides to make a card for Fania, because a birthday – or any day – is a gift too precious to ignore.

Can the young women barter enough bread to get a piece of paper or pencil stub?
Can they keep this secret from Fania and the guards?
Will they live or die or keep existing in between?

Zlatka and Fania each tell their story through chapters of poems, enduring and persevering because friendship can make its own family in the midst of horror and despair. Based on actual people and events at Auschwitz Concentration and Extermination Camp during World War II, this novel in verse celebrates the best and the worst of humanity.

Stone Mirrors, breaking sculpture barriers (fiction), by Jeannine Atkins

book cover of Stone Mirrors by Jeannine Atkins published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers  | recommended on BooksYALove.comAccused unjustly, white against black.
Hurt unfairly, strong against weak.
Dream pursued intensely, self against society.

How did an impoverished young woman, orphaned by her Ojibwe (Chippewa) mother and freedman black father, overcome being on trial for white classmates’ poisoning during the Civil War to become a prominent sculptor living in Italy?

Check out the Google Doodle honoring her on Feb. 1, to meet Edmonia Lewis, whose determination to create art drove her to become the first noted woman sculptor of African-American and Native American descent.

Read an excerpt for this January 2017 novel in verse here courtesy of the publisher, then head to your local library or independent bookstore.

How far would you travel to accomplish your dream?
**kmm

Book info: Stone Mirrors: The Sculpture and Silence of Edmonia Lewis / Jeannine Atkins. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2017. [author site]  [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Sketching is like breathing for Edmonia, but her art classes at Oberlin Academy can’t prepare the scholarship girl for false accusations of theft and poisoning which may steal her opportunity to be an artist.

Living in the North during the Civil War doesn’t make the skin given by her freedman father any less dark. Dressing in crinolines like her white classmates doesn’t lessen her longing for the forests and woodsmoke of her mother’s Ojibwe village. Being poor and different does make her the ideal scapegoat for her white classmates’ indiscreet drinking – “poisoned by Edmonia!”

Days in the courtroom, scholarship revoked, the young woman must leave town, earn a living, seek the smallest possibility that she may ever sculpt again – and she leaps at opportunity when it finds her!

This novel in verse illumines the sparse facts of Edmonia’s life with possible details as we watch her grow into a noted sculptor living in Italy in the late 1800s when neither women nor persons of color were celebrated for their artistic talents.

Language of Stars, by Louise Haws (book review) – poetry or pre-med prose?

book cover of The Language of Stars, by Louise Hawes published by Margaret K. McElderry Books | recommended on BooksYALove.comWhat Mom wants, what Dad demands,
What her boyfriend plans,
When is it her turn to decide?

Mistakes – telling Fry about the Baylor House, trying to please Dad at work, imagining that Mom would allow her off the pre-med career path.

Possibilities – writing poetry with Rufus Baylor himself, finding the ‘me’ instead of only ‘us’ with Fry, discovering her own poetic voice.

So many wonderful (and on-their-way-to-better) poems in this book!

Got a poem to share in the comments?
**kmm

Book info:  The Language of Stars / Louise Hawes. Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2016. [author site]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Sarah should have talked Fry out having a party at remote historic house in their North Carolina coastal town, but after the house is terribly damaged, her dad is even angrier at her than usual, and the partying teens are sentenced to summer school plus house restoration, she is startled to find their class taught by the reclusive poet whose summer home was wrecked and that she has a gift for words, a gift that may take her far from the med school future that her mom has planned out for her.

Filled with poetry – from the first written in many years by “the Great One” to those created during class together to the gems that Fry texts to Sarah while she’s working at her dad’s fancy restaurant – and revelations, The Language of Stars speaks love, second chances, redemption, and hope.