Even listeners who aren’t quite sure what some of the words mean will enjoy listening to their soothing, sonorous flow and...

PRAISE SONG FOR THE DAY

A POEM FOR BARACK OBAMA'S PRESIDENTIAL INAUGURATION

A moving poem broadens its potential impact with evocative, dreamlike illustrations from Caldecott Medalist Diaz.

Written for Barack Obama’s inauguration, Alexander’s poem uses sophisticated language and images both abstract and concrete to celebrate the diversity of the world we live in, the history that brought us to the day our first African-American president was sworn in and the hope that event inspired. The rhythmic language begins in the present, describing everyday activities. From there Alexander takes us to “dirt roads and highways” that lead both back in time to show the work and struggle that went into creating our world and forward into the hopeful future. Diaz finds ways to both reflect and explicate the complexity of Alexander’s work. His illustrations, focused primarily on a mother and child, create a sense of connection and should help to make the poem accessible to young listeners. By contrast, several double-page montages allow him to include multiple characters and situations in a single composition. Jewel-like colors, intricate patterns and the shifting intensity of light and dark combine beautifully to bring depth and texture to simple silhouettes of people, places and things.

Even listeners who aren’t quite sure what some of the words mean will enjoy listening to their soothing, sonorous flow and poring over the pictures to find vivid glimpses of their own and others’ lives and dreams. (Picture book. 6 & up)

Pub Date: March 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-192663-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Jan. 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2012

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Compassionate optimism for a boy who can’t control the chaos around him.

WHAT ABOUT WILL

What can a good kid do when his big brother starts being a problem?

Twelve-year-old Trace Reynolds, who is White and Puerto Rican, wants to get noticed for the right reasons: good grades, Little League, pulling weeds for Mr. Cobb next door. Seventeen-year-old Will used to be the best brother, but now he’s so angry. He’s played football since he was a little kid and has been tackled plenty; when he gets horrifically hurt in a JV game, it’s just one too many head injuries. It’s been a year and a half since Will’s traumatic brain injury, and he’s got a hair-trigger temper. He has chronic headaches, depression, and muscle spasms that prevent him from smiling. Trace knows it’s rotten for Will, but still, why did his awesome brother have to give up all his cool friends? Now he argues with their dad, hangs out with losers—and steals Trace’s stuff. At least Trace has a friend in Catalina Sánchez, the new girl on Little League. Her dad’s a retired major leaguer, and she has sibling problems too. Observations from Trace frame Cat as praiseworthy by virtue of her not being like the other girls, a mindset that conveys misogynistic overtones. The fears of stable, straight-arrow athlete Trace are clarified in lovely sparks of concrete poetry among Hopkins’ free verse, as he learns to tell adults when he sees his beloved brother acting dangerously.

Compassionate optimism for a boy who can’t control the chaos around him. (author's note) (Verse novel. 9-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-10864-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2021

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A powerfully candid and soulful account of an immigrant experience.

IN THE BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY

A Taiwanese family tries their luck in America.

In this verse novel, it’s 1980, and nearly 11-year-old Ai Shi and her mother prepare to leave Taipei to join her father in California, where he is pursuing a business opportunity with a friend. The extended family send them off, telling Ai Shi she’s so lucky to go to the “beautiful country”—the literal translation of the Chinese name for the U.S. Once they are reunited with Ba, he reveals that they have instead poured their savings into a restaurant in the remote Los Angeles County town of Duarte. Ma and Ba need to learn to cook American food, but at least, despite a betrayal by Ba’s friend, they have their own business. However, the American dream loses its shine as language barriers, isolation, financial stress, and racism take their toll. Ai Shi internalizes her parents’ disappointment in their new country by staying silent about bullying at school and her own unmet needs. Her letters home to her favorite cousin, Mei, maintain that all is well. After a year of enduring unrelenting challenges, including vandalism by local teens, the family reaches its breaking point. Hope belatedly arrives in the form of community allies and a change of luck. Kuo deftly touches on complex issues, such as the human cost of the history between China and Taiwan as well as the socio-economic prejudices and identity issues within Asian American communities.

A powerfully candid and soulful account of an immigrant experience. (Verse historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: June 28, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-311898-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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