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WHERE THE STEPS WERE by Andrea Cheng Kirkus Star


by Andrea Cheng

Age Range: 9 - 12

Pub Date: March 1st, 2008
ISBN: 978-1-932425-88-8
Publisher: Wordsong/Boyds Mills

A delicate verse cycle gives readers a series of snapshots of the lives of five children in an inner-city school. Dawn is plump, and fearful of her volatile father. Kayla can’t read, and her brother is in jail. Carmen’s mother smokes like a chimney. Anthony shows up early every morning to help Miss D. Jonathan lives with his mother and little brother in a homeless shelter. They all know that at the end of the year, their school will close, and what little stability they have becomes all the more precious to them. Cheng’s free-verse poems give voice to the children, allowing them to speak their hopes, frustrations and fears; her powerful, blocky woodcuts accompany the poems, intensifying their emotional impact. She wisely avoids the temptation to craft the year into an obvious narrative arc: Things happen to the children—a class play, a visit to the farm, a parent’s illness—alongside the commonplace squabbles and reconciliations that punctuate any school year. Thus there is no rising or falling action, simply the opportunity to get to know these third graders as complete and distinct individuals. Quietly lovely. (Poetry. 9-12)