by Frank Watson ‧ RELEASE DATE: Nov. 26, 2013
A grab bag of musings containing its share of gems but hindered by a lack of cohesion.
A collection of brief, impressionistic verse, with occasional images and translations.
Watson’s (One Hundred Leaves, 2013, etc.) eclectic mix is an uneven but enjoyable outing. Almost all of the book’s considerable length is made up of micropoetry—short entries of about three to seven lines—which seem intended to be read both as individual poems and as components of one extended sequence. There is no narrative to speak of within the micropoems, but similar images crop up over and over again; water, nighttime and longing glances play starring roles. Much of Watson’s diction is fresh and unexpected—“brush me with / your loose- / leaf kiss”—while other word choices are plagued by cutesy rhyme schemes and trite rhetorical questions: “to feel vs. to know / does it matter / to the soul?” Apart from the strengths and weaknesses of the individual poems, the collection as a whole feels less original as it progresses. There is, for example, a mysterious “she” who appears throughout, in lines such as “I knew her once / but now she is just / smoke & wind” and “her mouth / contained all / the secrets.” After several such similar mentions, lines like those cease to feel meaningful, and the collection loses a sense of momentum or progress. In both the micropoetry section and the handful of longer poems that follow it, the inclusion of translations—most of early Chinese poetry—is a further confusion. Though impressive, they feel out of place next to Watson’s own very different style, and their attributions are often murky, with some citations including no more detail than “Translated from an anonymous Chinese poem in the Shijing.” Still, despite the collection’s flaws, many of Watson’s poems offer nuanced explorations of love and uncertainty, and they’ll be especially compelling to those intrigued by the author’s experimentation with formal limitations.A grab bag of musings containing its share of gems but hindered by a lack of cohesion.
Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2013
Page Count: 292
Publisher: Plum White Press
Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2014
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In more ways than one, a tale about young creatures testing their wings; a moving, entertaining winner.
Awards & Accolades
A fifth-grade New Orleans girl discovers a mysterious chrysalis containing an unexpected creature in this middle-grade novel.
Jacquelyn Marie Johnson, called Jackie, is a 10-year-old African-American girl, the second oldest and the only girl of six siblings. She’s responsible, smart, and enjoys being in charge; she likes “paper dolls and long division and imagining things she had never seen.” Normally, Jackie has no trouble obeying her strict but loving parents. But when her potted snapdragon acquires a peculiar egg or maybe a chrysalis (she dubs it a chrysalegg), Jackie’s strong desire to protect it runs up against her mother’s rule against plants in the house. Jackie doesn’t exactly mean to lie, but she tells her mother she needs to keep the snapdragon in her room for a science project and gets permission. Jackie draws the chrysalegg daily, waiting for something to happen as it gets larger. When the amazing creature inside breaks free, Jackie is more determined than ever to protect it, but this leads her further into secrets and lies. The results when her parents find out are painful, and resolving the problem will take courage, honesty, and trust. Dumas (Jaden Toussaint, the Greatest: Episode 5, 2017, etc.) presents a very likable character in Jackie. At 10, she’s young enough to enjoy playing with paper dolls but has a maturity that even older kids can lack. She’s resourceful, as when she wants to measure a red spot on the chrysalegg; lacking calipers, she fashions one from her hairpin. Jackie’s inward struggle about what to obey—her dearest wishes or the parents she loves—is one many readers will understand. The book complicates this question by making Jackie’s parents, especially her mother, strict (as one might expect to keep order in a large family) but undeniably loving and protective as well—it’s not just a question of outwitting clueless adults. Jackie’s feelings about the creature (tender and responsible but also more than a little obsessive) are similarly shaded rather than black-and-white. The ending suggests that an intriguing sequel is to come.In more ways than one, a tale about young creatures testing their wings; a moving, entertaining winner.
Pub Date: Nov. 11, 2017
Page Count: 212
Publisher: Plum Street Press
Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2018
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018
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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
Page Count: 152
Publisher: Townsend Press
Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2013
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