A solid introduction to a brilliant writer.

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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A pivotal moment in a child’s life, at once stirring and authentically personal.

JUST LIKE JESSE OWENS

Before growing up to become a major figure in the civil rights movement, a boy finds a role model.

Buffing up a childhood tale told by her renowned father, Young Shelton describes how young Andrew saw scary men marching in his New Orleans neighborhood (“It sounded like they were yelling ‘Hi, Hitler!’ ”). In response to his questions, his father took him to see a newsreel of Jesse Owens (“a runner who looked like me”) triumphing in the 1936 Olympics. “Racism is a sickness,” his father tells him. “We’ve got to help folks like that.” How? “Well, you can start by just being the best person you can be,” his father replies. “It’s what you do that counts.” In James’ hazy chalk pastels, Andrew joins racially diverse playmates (including a White child with an Irish accent proudly displaying the nickel he got from his aunt as a bribe to stop playing with “those Colored boys”) in tag and other games, playing catch with his dad, sitting in the midst of a cheering crowd in the local theater’s segregated balcony, and finally visualizing himself pelting down a track alongside his new hero—“head up, back straight, eyes focused,” as a thematically repeated line has it, on the finish line. An afterword by Young Shelton explains that she retold this story, told to her many times growing up, drawing from conversations with Young and from her own research; family photos are also included. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A pivotal moment in a child’s life, at once stirring and authentically personal. (illustrator’s note) (Autobiographical picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-545-55465-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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