Slight poems with flashes of splendor but lacking real power.


This slim volume of poems explores the writer’s experience, using images and themes from nature.

Like the hawk on a wire in the titular poem, novice author Butler closely observes the natural world around her, often relating it to her own life. Having lived on farms in California and Oregon, as well as aboard a sailboat, Butler can draw upon an array of experiences. Several poems relate to cultivating gardens. “On My Farm” describes a tractor going through rows of lettuce, “the earth incumbent with nutrient.” In “Drops of Red,” one of the book’s more successful poems, the poet’s father is “driving the dusty green combine….The dust smells of toasted flour.” Such images are specific yet surprising: “incumbent” feels just right for moist, rich earth; “toasted” conveys the smell and feel of a hot day spent harvesting wheat. In “Traffic Dancing,” one of the few urban poems, Butler succinctly conjures the choreography of traffic: “a cotillion reel at an intersection.” In other poems, however, Butler’s metaphors are weak. The force of a metaphor comes from the surprising magnetism between two dissimilar things, but in “Honey Bees,” she compares clover honey to golden molasses—similar commodities—and then to tupelo honey, another comparable product. In “Bootjack,” she describes her favorite riding boots: “those boots are like / a second skin / protecting tender toes.” But there’s no “like” about it. Several poems have an intriguing sense of mystery, especially “Forgotten Moon,” in which an old couple sits in silence in a mountaintop house: “There is a footprint in that bog of red flowered thorns. / He’s forgotten her name but it will come / when the golden boat sinks into the sea.” The ghostly footprint leaves a haunting impression. Other poems are more puzzling than mysterious. “Traversing the Peninsula,” for instance, describes walking across the sand, where “The cold wrapped my ankles…anchoring me there.” How can she be traveling yet anchored? At times, Butler doesn’t seem to mind her words closely enough. The unsuccessful poems here simply present an image or situation, without closing the loop—there’s no tock for the opening tick. “Windswept,” for example, presents a rising autumn moon and the twilight air, then ends; “A Walk at Sunrise” describes just that, no more. Poems like these seem content at being pretty postcards.

Slight poems with flashes of splendor but lacking real power.

Pub Date: April 3, 2012

ISBN: 978-1434914484

Page Count: 46

Publisher: Dorrance Publishing Co.

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2012

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A YA novel that treats its subject and its readers with respect while delivering an engaging story.



In the ninth book in the Bluford young-adult series, a young Latino man walks away from violence—but at great personal cost.

In a large Southern California city, 16-year-old Martin Luna hangs out on the fringes of gang life. He’s disaffected, fatherless and increasingly drawn into the orbit of the older, rougher Frankie. When a stray bullet kills Martin’s adored 8-year-old brother, Huero, Martin seems to be heading into a life of crime. But Martin’s mother, determined not to lose another son, moves him to another neighborhood—the fictional town of Bluford, where he attends the racially diverse Bluford High. At his new school, the still-grieving Martin quickly makes enemies and gets into trouble. But he also makes friends with a kind English teacher and catches the eye of Vicky, a smart, pretty and outgoing Bluford student. Martin’s first-person narration supplies much of the book’s power. His dialogue is plain, but realistic and believable, and the authors wisely avoid the temptation to lard his speech with dated and potentially embarrassing slang. The author draws a vivid and affecting picture of Martin’s pain and confusion, bringing a tight-lipped teenager to life. In fact, Martin’s character is so well drawn that when he realizes the truth about his friend Frankie, readers won’t feel as if they are watching an after-school special, but as though they are observing the natural progression of Martin’s personal growth. This short novel appears to be aimed at urban teens who don’t often see their neighborhoods portrayed in young-adult fiction, but its sophisticated characters and affecting story will likely have much wider appeal.

A YA novel that treats its subject and its readers with respect while delivering an engaging story.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2004

ISBN: 978-1591940173

Page Count: 152

Publisher: Townsend Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2013

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A short, simple, and sweet tale about two friends and a horse.

Mary's Song

From the Dream Horse Adventure Series series , Vol. 1

A novel tells the story of two spirited girls who set out to save a lame foal in 1952.

Mary, age 12, lacks muscle control of her legs and must use a wheelchair. Her life is constantly interrupted by trips with her widower father to assorted doctors, all of whom have failed to help her. Mary tolerates the treatments, hoping to one day walk unassisted, but her true passion involves horses. Possessing a library filled with horse books, she loves watching and drawing the animals at a neighboring farm. She longs to own one herself. But her father, overprotective due to her disability and his own lingering grief over Mary’s dead mother, makes her keep her distance. Mary befriends Laura, the emotionally neglected daughter of the wealthy neighboring farm owners, and the two share secret buggy rides. Both girls are attracted to Illusion, a beautiful red bay filly on the farm. Mary learns that Illusion is to be put down by a veterinarian because of a lame leg. Horrified, she decides to talk to the barn manager about the horse (“Isn’t it okay for her to live even if she’s not perfect? I think she deserves a chance”). Soon, Mary and Laura attempt to raise money to save Illusion. At the same time, Mary begins to gain control of her legs thanks to water therapy and secret therapeutic riding with Laura. There is indeed a great deal of poignancy in a story of a girl with a disability fighting to defend the intrinsic value of a lame animal. But this book, the first installment of the Dream Horse Adventure Series, would be twice as touching if Mary interacted with Illusion more. In the tale’s opening, she watches the foal from afar, but she actually spends very little time with the filly she tries so hard to protect. This turns out to be a strange development given the degree to which the narrative relies on her devotion. Count (Selah’s Sweet Dream, 2015) draws Mary and Laura in broad but believable strokes, defined mainly by their unrelenting pluckiness in the face of adversity. While the work tackles disability, death, and grief, Mary’s and Laura’s environments are so idyllic and their optimism and perseverance so remarkable that the story retains an aura of uncomplicated gentleness throughout.

A short, simple, and sweet tale about two friends and a horse.

Pub Date: N/A


Page Count: -

Publisher: Hastings Creations Group

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2016

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