Powerhouse poet Alexander, along with friends Colderley and Wentworth, offers a culturally rich collection of poetic tributes that extends the legacies of poets from around the globe.
With mixed-media illustrations by Caldecott honoree Holmes that are just as vibrant as the words and stories that accompany them, the anthology brings readers through a time- and world-traveling adventure of the poetic imagination. Eras, places, and cultures represented include ancient times, 20th-century, contemporary, Japan, Uganda, African-American, Native American, Latino, and white, too. This cross-cultural exploration embraces the timeless power of poetry, as Alexander’s preface makes clear, “to reach inside of you, to ignite something in you, and to change you in ways you never imagined.” The tributes to such legendary poets as Rumi, Emily Dickinson, and Maya Angelou both serve as homage, transparent in their honest gratitude for their inspiration and wisdom, and emulate their distinctive styles. “Snapshots,” Colderley’s poem celebrating Nikki Giovanni, reads in part, “poetry is…barbecue…cotton candy…purple skin beets from Daddy’s garden… / blues…the Birdland jazz club…Sunday morning gospel…chasing justice…freedom…,” capturing Giovanni’s subject matter and stylized punctuation use. This book is sure to be an educator’s lucky charm for a survey-of-poetry unit and is also a perfect entryway for families to wonder and explore together. Brief notes introduce the three sections, and thumbnail biographies of the poets celebrated are appended.
A magnificent exploration of the poetic imagination.
(Picture book/poetry. 8-14)
Paintings, poetry, and lyrical prose celebrate animals of all sorts.
From blue whales to blue morpho butterflies, camels to coral, sea turtles to snails, Davies finds something young readers will find appealing and memorable about all kinds of animals. This striking, oversized album, first published in England, groups over 50 poems and snatches of carefully crafted prose into sections corresponding to topics: sizes; colors and shapes; homes; babies; and animals in action. The pleasing poetry makes liberal use of imagery, alliteration, and slant rhymes. The writer imagines monarch butterflies at their winter home: “clothing, covering, the trees / in a thick coat of living flame / that shimmers as a shiver passes / from wing to wing to wing.” This lyrical language is matched by sumptuous illustrations beautifully reproduced on glossy, oversized pages. Most poems are set on one side of double-page spreads, allowing the paintings ample, deserved room. Each animal is portrayed against a background that suggests something about its usual habitat. Horácek uses a variety of materials including wax crayon, acrylic and watercolor paints, and cutouts. The vibrant color and texture may remind some of the work of Brian Wildsmith. Each section ends with a spread of fast facts: characteristics of different animal groups; spots and stripes; parasites; eggs; and animals using tools.
A treasure for readers of any age who delight in the natural world.
(Informational picture book/ poetry. 4-10)
Timely and thought-provoking, Grimes’ collection transports young readers through the enduring expressiveness of the Harlem Renaissance, juxtaposing classic poems of the era with her own original work and full-color art by contemporary African-American illustrators.
Grimes’ choice of form, the Golden Shovel poem, does the magic of weaving generations of black verbal artistry into a useful, thematic, golden thread. A challenge indeed, the structure demands taking either a short poem in its entirety or a line from that poem, known as a “striking line,” in order to serve as the foundation for a new poem in which each line ends with one word from the original. With this, the classic opening line of Jean Toomer’s “Storm Ending” (“Thunder blossoms gorgeously above our heads”) is reinvigorated within new verse as Grimes reminds young readers that “The truth is, every day we rise is like thunder— / a clap of surprise. Could be echoes of trouble, or blossoms / of blessing.” Grimes joins the work of historic black wordsmiths such as Georgia Douglas Johnson, Countee Cullen, Langston Hughes, plus the less-anthologized yet incredibly insightful Gwendolyn Bennett and Clara Ann Thompson, with her contemporary characters and thematic entanglements to bring forth a Harlem Renaissance that is as close to the present as the weight of injustice and unfulfilled promise that they spoke through.
This striking, passionate anthology reminds young readers and adult fans of poetry alike that while black life remains “no crystal stair,” there remains reason to hope and a reserve of courage from which to draw.
(historical note, author’s notes, biographies, sources, index)
(Poetry. 10 & up)
A frolicking romp through the zany world of nonsense verse.
In the storied tradition of Nash, Lear, and Dr. Seuss, Harris joins forces with Smith to present over 100 original poems and illustrations dedicated to having some serious fun. Visual, aural, and downright guffaw-inspiring puns and riddles abound in this wildly imaginative and cleverly illustrated debut collection. Harris and Smith unite to preach the gospel of irreverence, daring children to explore and test parental—and poetic—limits in a variety of circumstances, whether through typography, illustration, or verse. In “Toasted Knight for Lunch Again?” Smith’s vividly textured multimedia double-page spread features Mama Dragon and Baby in conversation, as Baby points to lifeless Sir Gustav laid out on a plate, the feathery plume in his helmet serving as garnish, and whines, “No armor, Mom— / I want him / With the crust off!” In “ ’Tis Better,” Harris cheekily weighs in on the virtues of giving versus receiving, stating: “If that thing’s a black eye… / Then yeah, I believe it!” Harris and Smith even extend their banter to each other, Harris going so far as to bluntly state, “I Don’t Like My Illustrator,” and then Smith exacting revenge with a portrait of a snaggle-toothed, hairy-eared Harris with snot dripping from his nose.
The inspired and inspiring sense of play knows no bounds.
An ebullient collection of African-American playtime lore, traced to its sources.
Newbery Honor–winning McKissack explains how “our earliest toys are our hands, feet, and voices.” Most children don’t realize the educational value of songs and rhymes. The rhythms just naturally pull listeners along, encouraging participation. But in addition to their role in fostering language development and motor control, rhymes also have a history woven through them, especially for children of color. Arranging them developmentally, McKissack shares hand claps, jump-rope rhymes, circle games, songs, and stories. Unexpected treasures include “Mama Sayings” and the apropos “Jump Tale” (which has a sneaky surprise at the end). Such familiar characters as Anansi and Br’er Rabbit share space with the intriguing history of “Amazing Grace” and the coded songs from the Underground Railroad. Each entry is preceded by a note from McKissack describing a rhyme’s origin or sharing a personal anecdote from her childhood memories. Recounting sitting on the porch with family, frenzied clapping on the playground, or making “a joyful noise” in church, there is an undeniable warmth and sense of belonging to these tales. Pinkney’s watercolor-and–India ink spot illustrations swirl through the pages, bursting with energy tapped from joy and rich tradition.
A comprehensive treasury of memories, verbal art, and play.
(notes, bibliography, index)
Edited by We Need Diverse Books co-founder Oh, a collection of short stories that embraces a wide cultural spectrum of authorship.
Readers feel the angst that comes with getting to know the cool new California girl at a Pennsylvania school in Tim Federle’s “Secret Samantha,” narrated by gender-nonconforming Sam. They’ll thrill to Grace Lin’s “The Difficult Path,” the tale of a young Chinese servant girl who is captured by pirates, who save her from an arranged marriage to a horrible young boy from a wealthy family. Kwame Alexander contributes a short story in verse about a young Star Wars geek who is head over heels with the school's prettiest girl. Perhaps most poignantly, there is “Sometimes a Dream Needs a Push,” about a boy whose basketball-star father gives his wheelchair basketball team some crucial pointers, from Walter Dean Myers. These stories and others—from Matt de la Peña, Meg Medina, Kelly J. Baptist, Tim Tingle, Jacqueline Woodson, and Soman Chainani—ably contain universal themes: friendship, sibling rivalry, parental embarrassment, first crushes, and the trials and challenges that school can bring. Thumbnail biographies of the contributors and an introduction to the genesis and work of We Need Diverse Books round out the volume.
A natural for middle school classrooms and libraries, this strong collection should find eager readers.
Based on actual accounts, this dynamic short story collection focuses on and delves into the nuances of the lives of young Latinos and Latinas in the United States.
In the opening story, “The Attack,” readers are exposed to a medical emergency gone wrong when police racially profile a young Mexican-American man undergoing an epileptic seizure with a knife in hand. The story lands like a gut punch, and the following 11 also leave impressions and invite considerable scrutiny. Another touching narrative, titled “Burrito Man,” depicts the sudden death of a Salvadoran father saving for his daughter’s college tuition as an unassuming food vendor in D.C. Inspired by true stories and woven with cultural details and Spanish dialects appropriate to different Latin American countries, the collection is penetrating: Latin American families are divided by deportation; illness and poverty are constant struggles; characters feel guilt, shame, and an inescapable sense of being unwelcome in the U.S. Tech-industry gentrifiers and neighborhood kids clash over a San Francisco soccer field; a privileged, fifth-generation middle-class Tejano harbors palpable prejudices and misconceptions about unaccompanied children crossing the border. Common Spanish sayings—refranes—and attractive freehand pencil sketches of the protagonists usher in each story, both serving as integral elements in this solidly packaged collection.
Pura Belpré honoree Delacre’s chronicles—each different from the next—offer moving snapshots of family heartbreak, disadvantage, dysfunctionality, heartbreak, privilege, and joy.
(glossary, translations, notes)
(Short stories. 8-12)