16 WORDS by Lisa Rogers
Kirkus Star

16 WORDS

William Carlos Williams and "The Red Wheelbarrow"
by ; illustrated by
Age Range: 3 - 8
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KIRKUS REVIEW

The fictionalized backstory behind William Carlos Willams’ most famous poem.

In her picture-book debut, Rogers teams up with Groenink to offer a glimpse of William Carlos Williams’ intriguing life and to imagine what may have inspired his signature poem, “The Red Wheelbarrow”: “so much depends / upon / a red wheel / barrow / glazed with rain / water / beside the white / chickens.” Written in 1923 in suburban northern New Jersey, this 16-word free-verse lyric helped establish the family physician/poet as a beacon of 20th-century American imagist poetry. Here Rogers saves this compact, kid-friendly poem as the finale to her clever, biographically rooted close reading, in which she explores what exactly depends upon that wheelbarrow: namely the livelihood of gardener Thaddeus Marshall, Williams’ neighbor, and those fed by the vegetables the wheelbarrow helps him deliver—and Williams’ yearning to create art. Rogers not only calls attention to the objects included in the poem, but pointedly notes what was omitted: “Those sixteen words…do not describe Mr. Marshall’s life of work or caring or love. But somehow they say just that.” Groenink’s richly layered, chalky illustrations expressively realize in muted earth tones the all-important everyday elements of Williams’ world. They reveal Marshall to be black—one of few people of color living alongside the mostly white population of Rutherford, New Jersey.

At once spare and lush: a gorgeous introduction to the power of poetry. (author’s note, further reading) (Picture book/poetry. 3-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 24th, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-5247-2016-2
Page count: 40pp
Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 2019




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