THE SKIN SPINNERS

POEMS

Those who already know "Fable" ("Pity the girl with the crystal hair") from Cricket will have some idea of the sort of perky conceits Joan Aiken works up into rhyme and meter. The nimble wordsmanship can be pleasing—it's our loss if some of the funniest lines rely on English place names and pronunciations—and Aiken can produce pungently witty twists on classical myths or turn out a light, literate march on, say, the climb of the woodwinds to social prominence. On the other hand not everyone will be amused by such notions as electric garters (!) in "Socks and Shocks," mermaids crocheting in "Socks for the Sirens," the moon as "In the Sky" or even a lovelorn sewing machine who becomes "the sorrowful Singer of Newington Green." And by the time one comes to the arch and off-key musing on "The Bog People"—"ah, cover up her features/ of perdurable hide/misfortune's mummy/ the Bog Man's pride"—the numbing effect of so much inflexible cleverness begins to take hold. Aiken can be entertaining in small doses, but this overlong collection only exposes the forced and shallow impulses behind the verbal acrobatics.

Pub Date: March 22, 1976

ISBN: 0670649503

Page Count: 104

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: April 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1976

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A powerful reminder of a history that is all too timely today.

THEY CALLED US ENEMY

A beautifully heart-wrenching graphic-novel adaptation of actor and activist Takei’s (Lions and Tigers and Bears, 2013, etc.) childhood experience of incarceration in a World War II camp for Japanese Americans.

Takei had not yet started school when he, his parents, and his younger siblings were forced to leave their home and report to the Santa Anita Racetrack for “processing and removal” due to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066. The creators smoothly and cleverly embed the historical context within which Takei’s family’s story takes place, allowing readers to simultaneously experience the daily humiliations that they suffered in the camps while providing readers with a broader understanding of the federal legislation, lawsuits, and actions which led to and maintained this injustice. The heroes who fought against this and provided support to and within the Japanese American community, such as Fred Korematsu, the 442nd Regiment, Herbert Nicholson, and the ACLU’s Wayne Collins, are also highlighted, but the focus always remains on the many sacrifices that Takei’s parents made to ensure the safety and survival of their family while shielding their children from knowing the depths of the hatred they faced and danger they were in. The creators also highlight the dangerous parallels between the hate speech, stereotyping, and legislation used against Japanese Americans and the trajectory of current events. Delicate grayscale illustrations effectively convey the intense emotions and the stark living conditions.

A powerful reminder of a history that is all too timely today. (Graphic memoir. 14-adult)

Pub Date: July 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-60309-450-4

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Top Shelf Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 5, 2019

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Inspirational reading for any occasion. (Poetry. 12-adult)

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FOR EVERY ONE

A poem provides hope and reassurance to teens as they try to make sense of their own dreams for the future.

Award-winning writer Reynolds (Long Way Down, 2017, etc.) offers a letter in the form of a long poem that acknowledges and encourages young people’s dreams and aspirations. The poem uses the author’s own experiences to show common ground with his readers, making it clear that he is presenting himself as a fellow traveler on the journey: “This letter / is being written / from the inside. / From the front line / and the fault line. / From the uncertain thick of it all.” He shares observations of others and the ways in which they coped and speaks of the futility of finding answers in the usual places: “Though the struggle / is always made to / sound admirable / and poetic, / the thumping uncertainty / is still there.” This short piece is full of the elements that make Reynolds such a successful writer: honesty, rich imagery, great facility with language, and an irresistible cadence. At times conversational, other times, uplifting, this intimate and powerful piece connects on many levels. Even as Reynolds repeats throughout the poem, “I don’t know nothing about that,” he is telling his readers a great deal. As a piece that was originally performed, this begs to be heard. However, the printed version will still resonate.

Inspirational reading for any occasion. (Poetry. 12-adult)

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4814-8624-8

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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