Tag Archive | poetry

Y is for YOUR HEART, MY SKY, love despite starvation in Cuba, by Margarita Engle (YA book review) #A2Z

book cover of Your Heart, My Sky: Love in a Time of Hunger, by Margarita Engle. Published by Atheneum / Simon & Schuster | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Food is dwindling,
government rule tightens,
can people survive on hope alone?

Words feed your soul, but not the gnawing hunger across the island during el periodico especial en tiempos de paz in 1991, as the Soviet Union collapses and its food shipments to Cuba cease, starting a decade of starvation.

Out in the countryside, Liana is adopted by a brown dog who sings to the sky and helps the 14 year old find things to cook for her family. No, she won’t go to the government’s “summer camp” working in the sugarcane fields and leave her siblings to starve.

Neither will 15-year-old Amado, even though he’ll be an outcast in the village. If they knew his plan to evade military conscription, he’d be in prison with his brother who did the same. Constant hunger makes rebellious thoughts of freedom difficult, but he will persevere.

As the two young people try to fight their growing attraction, the singing dog called Paz does his best to nudge them together, knowing that they’ll be stronger together.

Can they grow any food without the government finding out?
Can hope alone sustain them as the police keep watch on Amado?
Should they also make a raft and try to escape to Miami?

Celebrate Poetry Month with this verse novel in three voices, by the author of Rima’s Rebellion (I recommended here).

To this day, Cuba imports most of its food – where do your representative and Senator stand on ending the decades-long US trade embargo?
**kmm

Book info: Your Heart, My Sky: Love in a Time of Hunger / Margarita Engle. Atheneum / Simon & Schuster, 2021. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

SOMEBODY GIVE THIS HEART A PEN, a poet speaks up, shouts out – by Sophia Thakur (YA book review)

book cover of Somebody Give This Heart a Pen, by Sophia Thakur. Published by Candlewick Press | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Being seen,
seeing others truly,
acknowledging support and pain.

In her poetry, Sophia Thakur captures life-moments low and high, reveals bone-deep concerns, speaks of youth, for youth, to youth.

“To you, the silence in this stillness is to be endured
not experienced.
It scratches at every anxious bone that you own…”
begins the poem “Fidgeting” (pg. 66), one of several whose unflinching observations resolve with grace and advice.

Section headers composed of proverbs and sayings – Grow, Wait, Speak, Grow Again – present themselves as concrete poems of wisdom, slashed white against a dark page.

Honed through her performance poetry and TED talks (like this one), the Black British poet’s style radiates on the page, like the opening lines of “When to Write”:

“When your fists are ready to paint faces
When there is nowhere to confide
When your skin lingers high above your bones
and you’re so out of touch with self.
Write…” (pg. 98)

Check out her first volume of powerful and empathetic poems today at your local library or independent bookstore, and be inspired to let your heart speak.

“…I swore to my lips
never to send up anything that would compromise
anyone’s perception of me.
I have a vision of how I wish to be seen
and I fear that that image will be challenged
if ever they know more of me.” –from “Secrets” (pg. 57)

Your favorite contemporary poem?
**kmm

Book info: Somebody Give This Heart a Pen / Sophia Thakur. Candlewick Press, 2020. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

RIMA’S REBELLION – she rides against tyranny in Cuba! by Margarita Engle (YA book review)

book cover of Rima's Rebellion: Courage in a Time of Tyranny / Margarita Engle. Published by Atheneum | recommended on BooksYALove.com

No voice in elections,
no protection from angry men,
no standing under the law – enough!!

Rima’s grandmother fought on horseback during the long struggle for independence from Spain, yet two decades laterin the 1920s Cuban women still cannot vote, not even las Mambisas.

Men hold all the power here, may kill a wife or daughter suspected of adultery without penalty, yet leave their own illegitimate children in poverty with no rights.

Forced to leave school at 14, ‘natural child’ Rima learns lacemaking with her mother in the shack on the far edge of her father’s land, knowing he could destroy it and Abuela’s horseshoeing forge at any time. Riding on her buckskin mare is Rima’s joy and escape:

“The enemy I run away from
is my own thought-trapped self,
all these doubts born within me.
If only I could mount a horse of hope
day and night, airborne, free!” (pg. 44)

It’s awkward to make lace mantillas for her half-sister Violeta, but worse to be mocked at the forge by every man in the village – except the glassblower’s son, who gives her glimpses of beauty in his work and his words.

Year after year, Abuela and Las Mambisas ride in parades to show their skills as horsewomen, inspiring young women like Rima and even Violeta to ride, to ask again and again for voting rights and protection of women’s rights.

Can Rima find a future without the protection of her father?
Can Violeta live up to the perfection he expects?
When will Cuban women finally earn respect and rights?

Happy book birthday to Rima’s Rebellion, another powerful novel-in-verse celebrating Cuba’s history like The Lightning Dreamer (see more here), and Lion Island (recommended here); the Spanish edition will be published in April 2022.

I also recommend the author’s Jazz Owls (here) and With a Star in My Hand (here) – so much poetry, such compelling histories!

What injustice would you parade against?
**kmm

Book info: Rima’s Rebellion: Courage in a Time of Tyranny / Margarita Engle. Atheneum, 2022. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Tapping her HIDDEN POWERS: LISE MEITNER’S CALL TO SCIENCE, by Jeannine Atkins (YA book review)

book cover of Hidden Powers: Lise Meitner's Call to Science, by Jeannine Atkins. Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers | recommended on BooksYALove.com

School through age fourteen,
prepare to raise a family,
but she wants more, so much more!

In a time when new elements are being added to the periodic table, Lise longs to be a scientist, to study further – so unladylike for the early 1900s!

But she persists, going to university, earning her PhD, hearing the discoveries of Planck and Einstein and Hahn from the great men themselves – so much more to learn!

Segregated in her Berlin basement laboratory away from the university’s male chemists and physicists, Lise makes an electroscope to examine radioactive substances – surely they can fill the periodic table’s gaps!

She publishes her important findings in academic journals before and during and after World War I – Dr. L. Meitner is applauded, yet her male co-researchers get more of the credit.

Hitler invades her home country of Austria in 1938 – safety for a Jewish woman in Nazi Germany will soon be impossible!

Can Lise escape to another country?
How will she continue her research?
Why did her lab partner alone get a Nobel Prize for their work on nuclear fission??

This biography in verse is a worthy addition to your reading list for International Day of Women and Girls in Science on 11 February or any day!

What woman of science do you think should be more celebrated for her work?
**kmm

Book info: Hidden Powers: Lise Meitner’s Call to Science / Jeannine Atkins. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2022. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

NINE! a Book of Nonet Poems, by Irene Latham & Amy Huntington (picture book review)

book cover of Nine: a Book of Nonet Poems / Irene Latham; art by Amy Huntington. Published by Charlesbridge | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Rhymes or none,
poems are fun –
you know haiku,
so try something new!

Expressing yourself in verse or song can make everyday life more interesting. That’s what a birthday girl and her little brother and their armadillo pal do, using the nonet form as they celebrate many nines – nine players in baseball, a nonagon-shaped nest, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, being on Cloud Nine.

What’s a nonet? She answers readers in the very first poem, “Nonet”:

Grand
poem
with nine lines –
one syllable
first line builds toward
nine-syllable ninth line
(or the reverse). A staircase
for poets and readers alike!
(Any subject, rhyming optional.)
-page 1

Did you count the syllables as you read down the nonet-staircase?

Some of her nonets start with the nine-syllable line and get shorter line by line, like “Nine-Banded Armadillo” and “Dressed to the Nines” for her big birthday bash!

Flip to the back of the book to learn more about all the nines in the poems and even the dimensions of the book itself.

Celebrate Poetry Break Day today or any day by writing your own nonet!

What’s your favorite nine fact?
**kmm

Book Info: Nine: a Book of Nonet Poems / Irene Latham; art by Amy Huntington. Charlesbridge, 2020. (author site) (artist site) (publisher site) Review copy & cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Bad news AIN’T BURNED ALL THE BRIGHT, by Jason Reynolds & Jason Griffin (YA book review)

book cover of Ain't Burned All the Bright, by Jason Reynolds; artwork by Jason Griffin. Published by Atheneum | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Three long sentences,
Two Jasons collaborating again,
One vibrant book, willing us to breathe…

His father coughing and coughing in the bedroom, his mother glued to the all-bad-news television. Brother won’t stop playing his video game, sister chatting about what to bring for a protest during a pandemic.

Stuck at home together – will it ever be safe to leave?
After George Floyd’s murder – who wants to be away from home?
TV locked on the same channel – is there better news anywhere?

A Black young man feels like he’s the only family member who realizes how bad things really are, how “worry is worn like a knit sweater in summer” suffocating them all, yet maybe hope can get them through all this.

Jason Reynolds (I’ve recommended his books Boy in the Black Suit; Ghost; Look Both Ways) wrote the story of a young man and his family during that first year of pandemic and protests as three very, very long sentences.

His former roommate Jason Griffin journaled his impressions of 2020 via paint, colored pencil, and collage in his moleskin notebook, then cut out and taped Reynolds’ words onto his artwork whose textures leap off the satin-surfaced pages of this book.

Happy book birthday to this stunning reflection on events of 2020 when so many of us wished we could change the TV channel from its harsh realities to something brighter.

What do you remember most about 2020?
**kmm

Book info: Ain’t Burned All the Bright / Jason Reynolds; artwork by Jason Griffin. Caitlyn Dlouhy Books/ Atheneum, 2022. [author site] [artist site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Listen to art talk – free audiobooks this week

Let’s talk about art – this week’s free audiobooks from SYNC are ready for you to download to your Sora shelf now!

These professionally narrated complete audiobooks are only available for Sora download from Thursday through Wednesday, or you can find them any time through your favorite independent bookshop or local library.

audiobook cover of Poemsia: a novel,  by Lang Leav. Read by Saskia Maarleveld. Published by Listening Library | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Poemsia: a Novel (free download 17-23 June 2021 on Sora)
by Lang Leav
Read by Saskia Maarleveld
Published by Listening Library

When an obscure poem found in her grandfather’s antiquarian bookstore is mistaken for one of Verity’s own writings, the Australian teen is offered a publishing deal and travel to New York City!

Supported by her life-long best friend and new boyfriend, Verity has to cope with sudden fame and high expectations as she strives to stay true to herself.

audiobook cover of This Is What I Know About Art, by Kimberly Drew.
Read by Kimberly Drew Published by Listening Library | recommended on BooksYALove.com

This Is What I Know About Art (free download 17-23 June 2021 on Sora)
by Kimberly Drew
Read by Kimberly Drew
Published by Listening Library

Access to art for all people, the relationship between art and protest – learn more about the ways that artistic expression can be open to everyone with the social media manager of NYC’s Metropolitan Museum of Art who communicates passionately about cultural studies, fashion, and Black contemporary art.

What art-inspired books can you recommend?
**kmm

She writes hopeful, worried LETTERS FROM CUBA to war-darkened Poland, by Ruth Behar (MG book review)

book cover of Letters From Cuba, by Ruth Behar. Published by Nancy Paulsen Books/ Penguin Random House | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Cross the wide ocean,
earn money slowly, slowly –
bring family to safety – soon, soon!

Papa went first to Cuba, trying to make enough money so their whole family could escape the increasing peril of merely being Jewish in Poland.

Esther is the oldest child, ready to travel across the sea and help Papa grow their savings faster, 11 years old on a ship crossing the Atlantic in 1938, writing letters to her sister Malka in an old notebook until time to send them.

Always-summer Cuba means sandals instead of woolen stockings, a small village in the hills away from the city, walking and walking with their peddler’s packs to sell goods throughout the countryside where the air smells like candy from the sugar mills.

As Esther learns Spanish, she’s befriended by Francisco Chang who came from China to his uncle’s store, Doctor Pablo and Senora Graciela whose daughter died young, and Manuela’s formerly enslaved grandmother who honors the gods of her African ancestors.

Angry sugar mill owner Eduardo thinks she and Papa don’t belong here, so the young woman takes refuge in the poems of Juan Marti shared by Senora Graciela as Esther designs and sews stylish cotton dresses that become popular in Havana.

Can she make enough dresses by herself to fill the orders?
Can they earn enough money to get their family here soon?
As Europe rejects Jewish people, will Cuba still welcome them?

As powerful people like Eduardo begin echoing Hitler’s anger and lies, Esther and Papa work hard and pray harder to bring their family to safety!

What letters have shared family stories with you?
**kmm

Book Info: Letters From Cuba / Ruth Behar. Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin Random House, 2020. (author site) (publisher site) Review copy & cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Celebratory lines – poems about NINE! a Book of Nonet Poems, by Irene Latham (picture book review)

book cover of Nine: a Book of Nonet Poems, by Irene Latham. illustrated by Amy Huntington. Published by Charlesbridge | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Rhymes or none,
poems are fun –
you know haiku,
so try something new!

Expressing yourself in verse or song can make everyday life more interesting. That’s what a birthday girl and her little brother and their armadillo pal do, using the nonet form.

What does that look like? She answers readers in the very first poem, “Nonet”:

Grand
poem
with nine lines –
one syllable
first line builds toward
nine-syllable ninth line
(or the reverse). A staircase
for poets and readers alike!
(Any subject, rhyming optional.)
-page 1

Did you count the syllables as you read down the nonet-staircase? Yep – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9.

Some of the girl’s nonets start with the nine-syllable line and get shorter line by line, like “Nine-Banded Armadillo” and “Dressed to the Nines” for her big birthday bash!

Flip to the back of the book to learn more about all the nines in the poems and even the dimensions of the book itself.

Celebrate Children’s Book Week by writing your own nonet!

What’s your favorite nine fact?
**kmm

Book Info: Nine: a Book of Nonet Poems / Irene Latham; art by Amy Huntington. Charlesbridge, 2020. (author site) (artist site) (publisher site) Review copy & cover image courtesy of the publisher.

E is empowering words by THE LIGHTNING DREAMER: Cuba’s Greatest Abolitionist, by Margarita Engle (YA book review)

book cover of The Lightning Dreamer, by Margarita Engle. Published by Harcourt | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Reading is escape.
Forbidden now, freedom removed –
She will tell new stories!

Of course she must marry someday, but Tula is told by her grandfather that the highest bidder will claim her next year, that her mother and stepfather will gain enough money in 1828 to buy more slaves to save their Cuban sugar plantation from ruin, that the thirteen year old’s too-brief time with her late father’s books will end forever.

Sent to wait at the convent, Tula meets nuns who accept every child abandoned because their skin is darker, who save every book they can find, who allow her to read the silenced poet Heredia’s calls for equality.

She writes plays and allegories that hide freedom’s songs within folktales, hiding them in her brother’s room. She dreams with her best friends of marriage based on love. She is betrayed, and yet continues composing messages of hope.

As the abolition of slavery is discussed publicly in America’s north, silence reigns on the island of Cuba, enforced by the whip and imprisonment. But what prison bars can keep captive the words of truth?

This novel-in-verse by the author of Jazz Owls (my review) and With a Star in My Hand (my review) sprinkles the voices of Mama, the nuns, and others among Tula’s poems about dreams, love, and a better future for all. Based on the life of Gertrudis Gomez de Avellaneda (1814-1873).

What are your powerful dreams?
**kmm

Book info: The Lightning Dreamer: Cuba’s Greatest Abolitionist / Margarita Engle. Harcourt, hardcover 2013, paperback 2015. [author site] [publisher site] Personal collection; cover image courtesy of the publisher.