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THE POET UPSTAIRS by Judith Ortiz Cofer


by Judith Ortiz Cofer & illustrated by Oscar Ortiz

Age Range: 5 - 9

Pub Date: Nov. 30th, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-55885-704-9
Publisher: Piñata Books/Arté Público

With help from her imagination and the poet upstairs, a young Latina escapes a dreary winter in the city.

Out sick from school, Juliana sees a woman move into the apartment above her own. Readers discover that the woman is “a famous poet” who “lived on an island,” as Juliana’s mother once had. Falling asleep to the sound of the woman typing upstairs, Juliana dreams of a beautiful Caribbean island (presumably Cofer’s native Puerto Rico). After awakening, she begins to imagine everything that the poet is doing above her and creates drawings of this dream island. Juliana slips these drawings under the poet’s apartment door and is rewarded the next day with a pictogram message from the poet, inviting her to visit. Together, the nameless poet and Juliana write a poem about a river and escape into a lush land of tropical birds, flowers and sunshine. Although the poem ends and the two return to the cold reality of the city, the poet assures Juliana that she can use poetry as a way to journey to other places. This advice keeps Juliana from being lonely, even after the poet moves away. In his debut picture book, Ortiz adds depth to the fanciful, lengthy narrative with his colorful mixed-media artwork.

This interesting-enough, though obvious tale is made remarkable by its illustrations. (Picture book. 5-9)