HOOFBEATS, CLAWS & RIPPLED FINS

CREATURE POEMS

Hopkins, the preeminent and prolific anthologist of children’s poetry, teams up again with Alcorn for their second thematic collection (My America: A Poetry Atlas of the United States, 2000). This time, the collection focuses on 14 different animals, from the common, domestic variety to the more unusual. Several renowned poets are included (Lillian M. Fisher, Karla Kuskin, and Hopkins himself) as well as more contemporary poets (Ralph Fletcher and Janet S. Wong) and well-known authors who also write in other genres (Joseph Bruchac and Tony Johnston). The 14 poems are presented on jazzy, colored backgrounds with creative typographic treatments, including larger type for key words and several concrete poems (a fish poem with waves of words, an iguana’s two-sentence tale curled into the shape of its tail). Alcorn’s sophisticated relief block prints may not appeal to children at first glance, and the rather static cover design is not as dynamic as the art and poems inside. However, teachers will appreciate this fine work for its wide variety of poetic formats and the thought-provoking nature of the poems themselves, and with a helpful introduction by an adult, both art and poetry will find success with kids. (Poetry. 8-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-688-17942-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2002

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An emotional and powerful story with soaring poetry.

THE LAND OF THE CRANES

A fourth grader navigates the complicated world of immigration.

Betita Quintero loves the stories her father tells about the Aztlán (the titular land of cranes), how their people emigrated south but were fabled to return. Betita also loves to write. She considers words like “intonation,” “alchemy,” and “freedom” to be almost magic, using those and other words to create picture poems to paint her feelings, just like her fourth grade teacher, Ms. Martinez, taught her. But there are also words that are scary, like “cartel,” a word that holds the reason why her family had to emigrate from México to the United States. Even though Betita and her parents live in California, a “sanctuary state,” the seemingly constant raids and deportations are getting to be more frequent under the current (unnamed) administration. Thinking her family is safe because they have a “petition…to fly free,” Betita is devastated when her dad is taken away by ICE. Without their father, the lives of the Quinteros, already full of fear and uncertainty, are further derailed when they make the small mistake of missing a highway exit. Salazar’s verse novel presents contemporary issues such as “zero tolerance” policies, internalized racism, and mass deportations through Betita’s innocent and hopeful eyes, making the complex topics easy to understand through passionate, lyrical verses.

An emotional and powerful story with soaring poetry. (Verse fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-34380-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

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Poet Alexander deftly reveals the power of the format to pack an emotional punch.

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THE CROSSOVER

Basketball-playing twins find challenges to their relationship on and off the court as they cope with changes in their lives.

Josh Bell and his twin, Jordan, aka JB, are stars of their school basketball team. They are also successful students, since their educator mother will stand for nothing else. As the two middle schoolers move to a successful season, readers can see their differences despite the sibling connection. After all, Josh has dreadlocks and is quiet on court, and JB is bald and a trash talker. Their love of the sport comes from their father, who had also excelled in the game, though his championship was achieved overseas. Now, however, he does not have a job and seems to have health problems the parents do not fully divulge to the boys. The twins experience their first major rift when JB is attracted to a new girl in their school, and Josh finds himself without his brother. This novel in verse is rich in character and relationships. Most interesting is the family dynamic that informs so much of the narrative, which always reveals, never tells. While Josh relates the story, readers get a full picture of major and minor players. The basketball action provides energy and rhythm for a moving story.

Poet Alexander deftly reveals the power of the format to pack an emotional punch. (Verse fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-544-10771-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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