A solid introduction to a brilliant writer.

READ REVIEW

A SONG FOR GWENDOLYN BROOKS

From the People Who Shaped Our World series

This brief biography of the Pulitzer Prize–winning poet features a handful of Brooks’ own poems interspersed with original verse about the woman and her writing.

The warm pink undertones of Brooks’ glowing brown face on the book’s cover fade to a muted brown and beige palette inside the book’s pages. Simple scenes and images use thick blurred lines and blocks of color as a background to the text as it recounts her life chronologically, from age 8 in 1925 to her winning the Pulitzer Prize in 1950. The poems about Brooks are headed by Roman numerals, I through IX. At first, she is “unsure,” watching and listening to the sounds and behaviors of the people in her neighborhood, writing poems in her journal and burying those that disappoint her. When her teacher accuses her of plagiarism, her mother has her write a poem in front of the teacher to prove her brilliance (the poem is included). Her parents believe in her and leave her “free to sit and think.” Her process is lovingly described: “She learns to labor for the love of words” through draft after draft. She befriends other poets and studies older poets. “She found her light. // And— / A furious flower / GREW!” The combination of biography and Brooks’ own poems makes for a strong, useful, and beautiful text; readers might wish, however, that Duncan’s words and Brooks’ were set in markedly different typefaces to better distinguish them.

A solid introduction to a brilliant writer. (author’s note, timeline, suggested reading, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 7-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4549-3088-4

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Sterling

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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Here’s hoping this will inspire many children to joyfully engage in writing.

WRITE! WRITE! WRITE!

Both technique and imaginative impulse can be found in this useful selection of poems about the literary art.

Starting with the essentials of the English language, the letters of “Our Alphabet,” the collection moves through 21 other poems of different types, meters, and rhyme schemes. This anthology has clear classroom applications, but it will also be enjoyed by individual readers who can pore carefully over playful illustrations filled with diverse children, butterflies, flowers, books, and pieces of writing. Tackling various parts of the writing process, from “How To Begin” through “Revision Is” to “Final Edit,” the poems also touch on some reasons for writing, like “Thank You Notes” and “Writing About Reading.” Some of the poems are funny, as in the quirky, four-line “If I Were an Octopus”: “I’d grab eight pencils. / All identical. / I’d fill eight notebooks. / One per tentacle.” An amusing undersea scene dominated by a smiling, orangy octopus fills this double-page spread. Some of the poems are more focused (and less lyrical) than others, such as “Final Edit” with its ending stanzas: “I check once more to guarantee / all is flawless as can be. / Careless errors will discredit / my hard work. / That’s why I edit. / But I don’t like it. / There I said it.” At least the poet tries for a little humor in those final lines.

Here’s hoping this will inspire many children to joyfully engage in writing. (Picture book/poetry. 7-10)

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68437-362-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Wordsong/Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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The car gets shortchanged, but comparing the divergent career paths of its (putative) two riders may give readers food for...

TWO MEN AND A CAR

FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT, AL CAPONE, AND A CADILLAC V-8

A custom-built, bulletproof limo links two historical figures who were pre-eminent in more or less different spheres.

Garland admits that a claim that FDR was driven to Congress to deliver his “Day of Infamy” speech in a car that once belonged to Capone rests on shaky evidence. He nonetheless uses the anecdote as a launchpad for twin portraits of contemporaries who occupy unique niches in this country’s history but had little in common. Both were smart, ambitious New Yorkers and were young when their fathers died, but they definitely “headed in opposite directions.” As he fills his biographical sketches with standard-issue facts and has disappointingly little to say about the car itself (which was commissioned by Capone in 1928 and still survives), this outing seems largely intended to be a vehicle for the dark, heavy illustrations. These are done in muted hues with densely scratched surfaces and angled so that the two men, the period backgrounds against which they are posed, and the car have monumental looks. It’s a reach to bill this, as the author does, a “story about America,” but it does at least offer a study in contrasts featuring two of America’s most renowned citizens. Most of the human figures are white in the art, but some group scenes include a few with darker skin.

The car gets shortchanged, but comparing the divergent career paths of its (putative) two riders may give readers food for thought. (timeline, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-88448-620-6

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Tilbury House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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