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A young poet displays evidence of impending mastery.

These poems by a teen author pass a key test: They stand up to and deepen with rereading.

Original, reflective, deploying an extensive vocabulary and vibrant verbs, Hoff’s poems rarely stumble. Often written in the first person but not egocentric, they focus on objects, like a plant or pears, items that evoke a place, and people met in the neighborhood. Some forthrightly explore an emotion, as in “How Do I Say Regret?” which expands from the minuscule and overlooked (a dead insect) to ask forgiveness of language itself. “On a Painting by Henri Rousseau,” “The Ambassador,” and several others are poems catalyzed by artworks. There is occasional social commentary, like a poem addressed to Black Panther Bobby Hutton. Most of the poems are free verse, but Hoff also bravely tackles the difficult pantoum. The epigraph and a couple of poems explicitly reference Slovenian absurdist poet Tomaž Šalamun, including an apocalyptic one dedicated to him, though most poems in this volume are more imagist than absurdist. Another end-times poem evokes the future Götterdämmerung. “It All Adds Up to Fun Times” provides explicit instructions: “Look for the hidden cracks inside the mountains. / Walk far to become your background. / Pick one of the many options that dangle before your eyes,” closing with the confident command, “Remember my words....”

A young poet displays evidence of impending mastery. (Poetry. 13-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2023

ISBN: 9780894091551

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Children's Art Foundation-Stone Soup, Inc.

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2023

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A gentle emphasis on hope and healing makes this a compassionate, restorative collection.

British Indian poet and playwright Gill’s first work for young adults is a tender, feminist examination of hard topics that honors quiet moments of healing and connection.

This poetry collection, organized around the four seasons, has sections that begin with a line of advice for each sign in the zodiac. Many of the poems focus on women’s bonds and identity: There are meditations on the women who have come before and those who will come after, emphasizing enduring mutual support. Romantic love, with partners of different genders, and self-love are explored next. The family section delves into toxic family ties and different parental reactions to coming out. There’s also a powerful meditation on colorism: “As a child, the aunties called my sister Coal. / Coal because of the colour of her skin, / not because of her ability to become fuel, / to glow so brightly despite them.” The next few sections—on hurting, protest, and body image—are empowering, inclusive reminders of one’s value. Topics like microaggressions, climate change, and the importance of voting are addressed: “You deserve a future filled with hope.” The concluding pieces about healing, friendship, and found family are soothing and beautiful. The concise poems, many of which contain abstract ruminations that feel relevant to many moments of joy and pain, combined with Gill’s black-and-white sketches, are accessible and welcoming.

A gentle emphasis on hope and healing makes this a compassionate, restorative collection. (author’s note) (Poetry. 14-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2023

ISBN: 9781529083606

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 11, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2023

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Fight alongside young Nezahualcoyotl as he comes of age and earns his crown.

In pre-Columbian Mexico in the year 1418, a forced peace has granted the Acolhua people temporary reprieve. Fifteen-year-old crown prince Nezahualcoyotl (then called by his birth name, Acolmiztli) must leave the palace for the calmecac and become a man. This rite of passage is interrupted, however, when battle returns to Tetzcoco and everything changes forever. Nezahualcoyotl kills a man for the first time. He also watches silently from a tree as his father is slain. Shedding his clothes and his birth name, Nezahualcoyotl goes into hiding until the time is right to return. In a maelstrom of oscillating joy and tragedy, the story follows Nezahualcoyotl (of contemporary 100-peso bill fame) until the age of 23 in this grand adventure. While most of the four-part story is told through prose, scattered verse showcases Nezahualcoyotl’s poetic gifts (including some direct translations of Nahuatl poems). Political machinations abound alongside an exceedingly high body count. Bowles deftly uses the first-person present tense to add immediacy to Nezahualcoyotl’s otherwise distant story. Gender and sexuality are understood differently in Nezahualcoyotl’s culture, but significantly, a main love interest is xochihuah (“a queer gender in Nahua culture that doesn’t quite align to modern perceptions”). Though sparse, Mijangos’ full-color illustrations add a regal beauty to the book’s design. An appended “Guide to Unfamiliar Concepts” offers extensive additional context for each chapter.

Riveting. (family trees, map, pronunciation notes, author’s note) (Historical epic. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2023

ISBN: 9781646141777

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Levine Querido

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2023

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