It may take readers a few rounds to fully appreciate and understand the loose, unassumingly sophisticated narrative that...

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OVERHEARD IN A TOWER BLOCK

POEMS

This slim volume of more than four dozen poems of varying lengths charts the narrator’s course from childhood in low-income urban housing to adolescence to young adulthood and fatherhood.

The unnamed narrator personifies the unforgiving public-housing tower block as a “zombie” hungry for human lives and memories. He dodges a bully in “Smashing Snails in the Rain” and overhears an “Argument”: “The monster / With a roar made up of shouts,” whose “jaws snap / Like slamming doors” and whose “claws clatter / Like kitchen drawers.” His father gives him the perfect pair of red sneakers in “Trainers.” These shoes return many times across the collection, acting as a possible symbol of the boy’s hero worship of his often absent father. As the boy enters his teens, he goes from confident to awkward to embracing the changes his body experiences in “Man…I Had It Made.” In later poems, he has his first kiss, gets exam results, and leaves home for the first time. He becomes a father, “whose heart thumps solely for his / daughter.” Poetic forms vary, with some rhyming and others not. Readers may have difficulty understanding the trilogy of sophisticated poems based on the myth of Prometheus. Race is not mentioned, and the flat, unemotional black-and-white sketches provide few clues.

It may take readers a few rounds to fully appreciate and understand the loose, unassumingly sophisticated narrative that joins the poems. (Poetry. 10-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-91095-958-9

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Otter-Barry

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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A broadly diverse roster of role models.

KID ACTIVISTS

TRUE TALES OF CHILDHOOD FROM CHAMPIONS OF CHANGE

From the Kid Legends series

Introductions to iconic world changers of the present and recent past who stood up for racial justice and human rights.

Most of the 16 main figures are or should be familiar to young readers, but along with the likes of Frederick Douglass, Dolores Huerta, and Rosa Parks, Stevenson lays out early experiences and influences for some less-high-profile names: There’s gay politician Harvey Milk, for instance, transgender activist Janet Mock, and formerly enslaved child advocate Iqbal Masih, assassinated at the age of 12. In between the main profiles, the author slips briefer ones of associates, such as Mama Sisulu for Nelson Mandela and, for Milk, nods to the Mattachine Society and the Daughters of Bilitis, both early gay and lesbian organizations. Only a few are or were true “kid activists,” but the reminder that they all started out as children may make them and their causes seem accessible, and the preponderance of smiling faces in Steinfeld’s frequent, neatly drawn cartoon vignettes keeps the hardships and violence that many of them experienced safely distant. From Martin Luther “Little Mike” King’s “When I grow up I’m going to get me some big words” to 10-year-old Anishinaabe activist Autumn Peltier’s standing before the United Nations with the demand to “warrior up” in defense of clean water for all, their stories offer inspiration as well as memorable moments.

A broadly diverse roster of role models. (bibliography, index) (Collective biography. 10-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68369-141-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Quirk Books

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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BEAST FRIENDS FOREVER!

ANIMALS IN RHYME

Forbes tenders a curiously wayward collection of animal love poetry.

“For soon they’ll grow up and want to go play / With game skunky guys for a sniff and a spray.” Sure, if educated fleas do it, then skunks do it: They fall in love. But Cole Porter might have framed it differently, as it seems a little rich for 7-year-olds, the starting audience for which this book is disingenuously pegged in its marketing: 7 to 70. Elsewhere, readers will find “a pig whose name is Squig,” a “camel named Kim” and a “doe gazelle named Mellow”—not to forget “[t]wo raccoons, Liz and Rick” (whose name suddenly turns to Dick in the last stanza), none of whom will tickle too many 60-year-olds. And for such a handsome production—the paper is lovely, and the reproductions of Searles’ illustrations, with their wonderful spidery, anarchic linework and trails of color that leave afterimages, are terrific—it is jarring to find “unfatihfulness” and “morning dove” (though the last occurs in one of the better poems, about a sea gull leaving home—the beach—because he is tired of the soggy French fries). Of the 27 poems here, Forbes best hits his stride in the longer pieces, especially “Down at the Old Mill Inn,” with its cast of unsavories kept in check by the headwaiter. Unfortunately, the extended poems are too few and far between, though Searles’ artwork (he died in 2011) saves the book’s bacon. (Poetry. 10-12)

 

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-59020-808-3

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Duckworth/Overlook

Review Posted Online: Oct. 31, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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