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AMERICA AT WAR by Lee Bennett Hopkins


edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins & illustrated by Stephen Alcorn

Age Range: 8 - 12

Pub Date: March 4th, 2008
ISBN: 978-1-4169-1832-5
Publisher: McElderry

Some 55 poems memorialize America’s wars from the Revolutionary War through the Iraq War, touching on both bravery and sacrifice, emphasizing, according to anthologist Hopkins’s introduction, “the emotional impact.” Illustrator Alcorn uses iconic imagery and proportions informed by the great American muralists of the last century to deliver a quietly emotional punch. Many of the poems are reprints of well-known masters (Whitman, cummings, Teasdale), while others are newly commissioned from the ranks of today’s children’s poets (Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Betsy Franco, Jane Yolen). The poems vary from elegiac to angry; some are piercingly incisive, while some do not directly address war at all. This is perhaps one of the book’s great weaknesses; two of the Civil War poems revolve around the Underground Railroad, not combat. Most mystifying is the placement of two Langston Hughes poems, “Youth” (World War I) and “Dreams” (Iraq War); both seem oddly out of place. Another cavil is the omission of dates of composition of the poems, a device that would help readers understand both context and historical changes in perspective. A worthy but flawed effort. (Poetry. 8-12)