Rites of passage incandescently brought to light.



This poetic tale chronicles the presence and contributions of African American midwives.

A five-page historical introduction explains a few specific details of the role of the midwife, including noting their contributions dating back to the time of slavery; this is accompanied by archival, black-and-white photographs. Seven poems follow, celebrating midwives through history. First, Greenfield describes the trans-Atlantic slave journey and how, in America, the elder women taught the younger girls the knowledge and skill of assisting in childbirth, or “catching the babies.” The poem “After Emancipation, 1863” speaks to the special exuberance expressed by parents whose children were at last born free from slavery: The midwife “felt the / excitement circling through / the room. / …it was more than / the joy of a new baby coming.” In “The Early 1900s,” the midwife now had more than her hands for the job; she had a stethoscope, scales, and, most likely, her husband, who would transport her via horse and buggy to deliver babies. The poems are accompanied by colorful, symbolic artwork by Minter. One striking image depicts five women connected by sinuous, draping robes, heads bowed in concentration, “gentle, loving” hands at the ends of muscular arms “guid[ing babies] into the world.” Greenfield also includes black-and-white photographs of her childhood self, a nod to “Miss Rovenia Mayo,” the midwife who “caught” her in 1929.

Rites of passage incandescently brought to light. (Picture book/poetry. 7-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-9977720-7-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Alazar Press

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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Here’s hoping this will inspire many children to joyfully engage in writing.


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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Some issues with design and tone but a mostly worthy appreciation of the women who stood and stand (if, sometimes, only...



“We know Eleanor Roosevelt, Abigail Adams, / but what about those other madams”?

For each first lady from Martha Washington (“Raised to be a planter’s wife, / taught how one behaves / as mistress of the household / and the household slaves”) to immigrant Melania Trump, Singer offers a thumbnail character study in verse that’s paired to an ink-and-wash figure by Carpenter. If there is any common theme, it’s mortality: Martha Jefferson, who died 19 years before her husband’s election, is represented by a framed silhouette over a silent pianoforte; Peggy Taylor lies prostrate before a tombstone; a veiled Jackie Kennedy looks out from an antique TV screen. Singer likewise often includes mention of lost husbands or children among references to favored causes and personal accomplishments. On the other hand, Mary Todd Lincoln, generously summed up as “an unlucky woman—kindly and cursed,” poses regally as her brown-skinned dressmaker (unnamed in the poem but identified in the endnotes) cuts up an American flag to make a gown while Abe stands nearby, gaping comically at a sheaf of bills. Brief profiles at the end add some detail but mostly just recap the poems’ content, and a pictorial timeline on the rear endpapers would serve as an index if the jacket flap didn’t cover a good portion of it.

Some issues with design and tone but a mostly worthy appreciation of the women who stood and stand (if, sometimes, only figuratively) next to the presidents. (Poetry/collective biography. 7-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4847-2660-0

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2018

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