This deeply important story will foster further discussion around racism, sexual abuse, and courage.

RISE!

FROM CAGED BIRD TO POET OF THE PEOPLE, MAYA ANGELOU

Maya Angelou: writer, performer, activist.

In a foreword, Angelou’s grandson, Colin Johnson, prepares readers for a story that is not at all a fairy tale and will inevitably prompt conversations. Hegedus’ poem starts with young Maya and older brother Bailey heading to Stamps, Arkansas, where they will live with their paternal grandmother, Momma Henderson, owner of the local general store. Illustrating Henderson’s stoicism in the face of racism, Engel uses the symbolism of a scale with Henderson as its fulcrum, Maya weighing down the pan on one side as jeering white girls are lifted on the other. The children’s brief sojourn with their mother and her boyfriend is marred by his sexual abuse—the text alludes to “a visit to the hospital”—of young Maya; his shadow on the wall as Maya huddles on her bed will haunt readers. Back in Stamps Maya discovers her love of reading, powerfully depicted in an image that shows words swirling above her head. The narrative continues, Hegedus’ spare words finding symbolic representation in Engel’s oil paintings, as Maya moves through her difficult childhood  to emerge as a rare talent with a young son to support, later to turn her talents to activism. The final page shows an African American girl reading and reflecting on Angelou’s words; they swirl about her, closing the circle.

This deeply important story will foster further discussion around racism, sexual abuse, and courage. (timeline) (Picture book/biography. 7-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-62014-587-6

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Lee & Low Books

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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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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Involving from "the end of my lovely world" to the end of exile (when the Rudomins, as Jews, were jeered in Poland), this is...

THE ENDLESS STEPPE

GROWING UP IN SIBERIA

To Esther Rudomin at eleven Siberia meant the metaphor: isolation, criminals and cruel punishment, snow and wolves; but even in Siberia there is satisfaction from making a friend of a prickly classmate, from seeing a Deanna Durbin movie four times, from earning and studying and eventually belonging.

Especially in Siberia, where not wolves but hunger and dirt and cold are endemic, where shabbiness and overcrowding are taken for granted, where unselfishness is exceptional. At the heart of Mrs. Hautzig's memoir of four years as a Polish deportee in Russia during World War II is not only hardihood and adaptability but uniquely a girl like any other. Abruptly seized in their comfortable home in Vilna, Esther and her family, are shipped in cattle cars to Rubtsovsk in the Altai Territory, work as slave laborers in a gypsum mine until amnesty, then are "permitted" lobs and lodging in the village--if someone will take them in. After sleeping on the floor, a wooden platform is very welcome; after sharing a room with two other families, a separate dung hut seems a homestead. Then Esther goes to school, the greatest boon, and, to her mother's horror, wants to be like the Siberians....Deprivation does not make Esther grim: the saddest day of her life is her father's departure for a labor brigade at the front, her sharpest bitterness is for the bland viciousness of individuals.

Involving from "the end of my lovely world" to the end of exile (when the Rudomins, as Jews, were jeered in Poland), this is a beautiful book with no bar to wide acceptance (and a rich non-juvenile jacket by Nonny Hogrogian). (Memoir. 8-12)

Pub Date: April 15, 1968

ISBN: 978-0-06-447027-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: T.Y. Crowell

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1968

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