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SPEAK TO ME by Karen English Kirkus Star


(And I Will Listen Between the Lines)

by Karen English & illustrated by Amy June Bates

Age Range: 7 - 10

Pub Date: Aug. 13th, 2004
ISBN: 0-374-37156-3
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

English captures the voices of six African-American children as they chronicle one school day. Malcolm is the dreamer, the image-maker, as he notices and pretends and wishes. Lamont is righteous, but he’s also the one who gives his teacher a flower and wants to sit next to the “reading boy,” perhaps to catch some of his talent. Tyrell is angry and troublesome and yearning to be good. Rica and Neecy are best friends, while Brianna is heartbroken at being left out of their tightness. English employs the simplest of language in perfect evocation of the children’s thoughts, confusions, small hopes, and large dreams. Most of the poems can be read as universal moments in the lives of elementary-school children of all ethnicities and backgrounds, or one can “listen between the lines” to find the unique characters of these six individuals. Bates does just that as she enhances each poem with a beautifully powerful illustration, capturing every mood, every feeling, and breathes life into each distinct personality. Just wonderful. (Picture book/poetry. 7-10)