Books by Jen Bryant

FEED YOUR MIND by Jen Bryant
Released: Nov. 12, 2019

"A must-have for those who want children to learn about one of the stage's greatest bards. (Picture book/biography. 6-9)"
One of America's greatest modern playwrights is introduced to generations of younger readers in this lyrical picture book. Read full book review >
SIX DOTS by Jen Bryant
Released: Sept. 6, 2016

"An inspiring look at a child inventor whose drive and intelligence changed the world—for the blind and sighted alike. (Braille alphabet, French pronunciation guide, author's note, Q-and-A, print and web resources) (Picture book. 6-9)"
Bryant follows an earlier biography for middle graders with this story, narrated by Louis, imagining life events from birth to age 15. Read full book review >
THE RIGHT WORD by Jen Bryant
Released: Sept. 15, 2014

"In a word: marvelous! (Picture book/biography. 6-10)"
After award-winning collaborations about poet William Carlos Williams and artist Horace Pippin, Bryant and Sweet return to investigate the life of Peter Mark Roget. Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 8, 2013

"A splash of vibrancy about a self-taught master. (historical note, author's note, illustrator's note, references) (Picture book/biography. 5-11)"
This outstanding portrait of African-American artist Horace Pippin (1888-1946) allows Pippin's work to shine—and his heart too. Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 9, 2010

A beautiful green-eyed Gypsy girl with raven-black hair smiles at Ryan Sweeney and gives him a rose as she makes change for his sandwiches at the Quikmart, and it's all downhill for Ryan after that. A cadet at Valley Forge Military Academy, Ryan has always been serious and studious, his eyes set on West Point, but his sheltered existence leaves him defenseless against the charms of Carmen Navarro, a fiercely independent young woman who dreams of making it big with her band, the Gypsy Lovers, and has no interest in a relationship that will make her feel "like a hawk tied to a perch." In a departure from her novels in verse, Bryant tells a tragic love story—based on Mérimée's novella and Bizet's opera Carmen—in traditional prose but with four voices: Carmen's, Ryan's and two friends', who look on from an emotional distance. Perfectly paced and pulsing with Ryan's increasingly desperate obsession, the tale follows the inevitable trajectory of violence and tragedy, and readers will consume the tale in one hungry gulp. (author's note, bibliography) (Fiction. 12 & up)Read full book review >
Released: May 12, 2009

When 13-year-old Lyza cleans her grandfather's attic and finds a bundle of papers marked "For Lyza Only," she's propelled into a modern-day search for pirates' treasure. After weeks of digging—and suffering bruised wrists, blistered fingers and fatigue—Lyza and her two best friends make an amazing discovery and become local celebrities. Set in 1968, with the Vietnam War, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix in the background, Bryant's novel-in-verse effectively weaves Lyza's narrative together with letters from Vietnam, Captain Kidd's pirate's log and an occasional poem that stands beautifully on its own. Lyza's kaleidoscope, a birthday present from her mother, who has walked out on the family, connects readers with the Beatles's "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds," provides the volume's title and offers a perfect metaphor for a girl learning to see her world in new ways. Readers will fall under the spell of the delicious plot and race ahead to see if Lyza and her friends find buried treasure. The solid bibliography offers good resources for researching pirates, Vietnam and the '60s. A neat match with Gary Schmidt's The Wednesday Wars (2007) and Michael Kaufman's 1968 (2008). (author's note) (Historical fiction. 9-14)Read full book review >
ABE’S FISH by Jen Bryant
Released: Feb. 1, 2009

A soldier from the War of 1812 helps young Abe learn a valuable lesson, in this brief tale based on a short passage from Lincoln's first official biography. Abe hops out of bed determined to follow Pa one morning, but he still isn't strong enough to lift the axe out back and so must stay behind. Down at Knob Creek, Abe catches a big fat fish and imagines the joy he'll bring to Ma and sister Sarah with his prize. On the road home, he passes a weary soldier, in torn clothes and worn-out-boots. Abe remembers school lessons about freedom and the teachings of his parents and gives the fish to the soldier, asking him whether he found freedom in the war. The answer stays with young Abe all the way to the White House. Bates's pencil-and-watercolor illustrations use a muted palette that gives a period feel, and the handsome design features an appropriately tall, skinny trim. A lengthy author's note and bibliography add classroom value to Bryant's earnest and age-appropriate historical fable. (Picture book. 6-10)Read full book review >
Released: Aug. 1, 2008

With plain words, appropriate to the style of this master of clear and precisely worded poetry, and brilliant images, Bryant and Sweet introduce Williams and his poetry in a fresh, accessible way. The spare text manages to give an impression of his liberating childhood, his affinity for the ordinary, the successful marriage of his medical profession with his writing and the modernist artistic community of his time. The mixed-media illustrations, created primarily with watercolor and collage, take their inspiration from vintage books. At once vividly childlike and highly sophisticated, they have enormous visual appeal. The single-page renderings of Williams's brief poems are brilliantly conceived in colorful hand-lettering and collage, which might have been hard to read if they weren't so artistically compelling. It is entirely possible that this offering will not only acquaint readers with the man and his poetry but will also inspire creativity—Williams would no doubt be pleased. (timelines, bibliography, author's note, illustrator's note) (Picture book/biography. 8-12)Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 12, 2008

In 1925, the leading citizens of Dayton, Tenn., created a media circus to revive the sagging economy of their small town. John Scopes, the new science teacher, agreed to be arrested so the American Civil Liberties Union could test the Butler Act, which forbade the teaching of any theory that denied the biblical story of the creation. It was faith versus science, and reporters, lawyers and onlookers soon besieged the town. Bryant's novel-in-verse gives voice to many players, and though the theatrics of Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan, the famous orators, seem lost among the many voices, and characters' observations are sometimes repetitive, the participants come across as real individuals with distinct voices and personalities. By the end, the young people demonstrate how the trial opened their eyes and minds, as they seem inspired to launch themselves into the larger world. Eloquent at times and a natural for the classroom, this is a good match with Ronald Kidd's Monkey Town (2006). (epilogue, author's note, bibliography) (Fiction. 11+)Read full book review >
Released: April 11, 2006

Sometimes novels-in-verse allow a kind of calligraphic freedom of description and emotion, as in this gentle story. When Georgia turns 13, someone sends her a membership to the Brandywine Museum, which is not far from where she lives. Georgia loves to draw: Her mother was an artist, and neither Georgia nor her father has gotten over her death six years earlier. Georgia tells her tale in her journal, given to her by an understanding teacher, and addresses herself to her Momma. In the seventh grade, she makes a friend, thinks hard about the Wyeths at the museum, helps her father open his closed memories of her mother and makes a portfolio for an art program. Her voice is natural and plainspoken and she thinks about things carefully as she moves forward in her life. The moment in which she finds out who gave her the museum membership is moving and lovely and is the perfect signature on this affecting work of art. (Fiction. 9-12)Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 1, 2006

A Brooklyn lad finds common ground with an oddly dressed lady in this fictional but not unlikely zoo encounter. Jonathan loves to watch the animals, and so does the woman in the black cape and tri-cornered hat; standing side by side in the reptile house, they introduce themselves: "My name is Miss Moore, but you can call me Marianne." And later: "No, I'm not a scientist—I'm a poet." Unsure just what a "poet" does, Jonathan accompanies her around the zoo as she explains how she puts down thoughts and observations in her notebook, tries to fit them together like puzzle pieces, and, with luck and patience, sometimes makes them into a poem. Shifting point of view from within the cages and out, Johnson supplies accurately drawn, very softly tinted animal and human figures, capturing both Jonathan's curiosity and the Moore's quirky, dignified grandeur. In the end, she leaves him with both a blank notebook and the assurance of future meetings—a double promise that young readers and writers may be moved to take her up on. Though a sample of poetry would have made a better sendoff than Bryant's biographical afterword, this does provide a tantalizing glimpse into one writer's creative process. (Picture book. 7-9)Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 2005

Soulful drawings in charcoal and pastel illustrate this poignant bright-spot-in-the-middle-of-war story. French composer Olivier Messiaen is taken in a dark truck to a German prison camp. He carries a small knapsack containing his own sheet music. One day, despondent, he knowingly risks death in order to walk outside and hear a nightingale. An officer catches him, but instead of shooting, offers him a tiny room in which to spend daily time composing. Inspired by the nightingale's song, Olivier writes a quartet, which he performs along with three other imprisoned musicians. Five thousand prisoners gather to listen. "Like birdsong, it was wild, beautiful, and full of hope." Peck uses yellow wonderfully, incorporating it with browns and greens to show both joy and despair. Her pictures carry a perfect balance of pain and possibility. Bryant gives no historical context except in her note. Readers may require WWII explanations. (author's note) (Historical fiction. 9-12)Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 1, 2005

This uninspired biography of Georgia O'Keeffe traces the evolution of part of her oeuvre. "As a child, shapes often drifted in and out of Georgia's mind," it begins. As she grows, Georgia observes woods, seashore, city, and desert for shapes to paint, and she gathers shells and bones for still-lifes. Inexplicably, Bryant never mentions her famous flower paintings, though she does appropriately emphasize her well-known paintings of bones found in the desert. Andersen uses gouache, colored pencil, and pastel to create stiff figures and cryptic backgrounds; many visual details need explaining. This art, unlike Georgia's, is lifeless and less interesting. Text about Georgia's thoughts and words are unattributed and fictionalized, as if from an earlier era of children's biography. Conspicuously missing are sources or an author's note. Not a good introduction or homage to O'Keeffe. (Picture book/nonfiction. 4-8)Read full book review >
THE TRIAL by Jen Bryant
Released: March 9, 2004

The eponymous trial is that of Bruno Richard Hauptmann, the accused kidnapper of the Lindbergh baby. The 1935 "Trial of the Century" temporarily transformed the sleepy town of Flemington, NJ, into a media three-ring circus, at which 12-year-old wannabe journalist Katie finds herself with a ringside seat. Her reporter uncle having conveniently broken his arm just before the trial, Katie has been (very willingly) drafted to take notes for him, and her observations of the trial and life in Flemington are conveyed in that "spare, lyrical verse" that has become so fashionable in children's books. In this case, the form—loosely strung-together free-verse poems—actively works against the narrative, because no matter how gamely Bryant tries to introduce subplots, those poems seem to be appended to the main action, rather than integrated into it. Katie herself does emerge as an appealing character whose reportage and musings will give young readers a sense of the times. An author's note provides such a cogent post-trial follow-up that readers may find themselves wishing the trial itself had been granted a nonfiction treatment rather than being filtered through fiction. (Fiction. 10-14)Read full book review >