TAN TO TAMARIND

POEMS ABOUT THE COLOR BROWN

Helping ethnic children find the beauty in themselves is the goal of Iyengar’s celebratory cycle, which venerates various hues of brown in each poem. The brown association pulls the poems together, and each begins with the same basic three-line stanza: “Brown. / Ocher brown. / Vivid orange-brown”; “Brown. / Tamarind brown. / Deep purplish-blackish brown.” Unfortunately, the poems do little to evoke feelings or establish connections. The limited vocabulary within each makes readers feel as though they are reading the same basic poem; given that the theme is obvious, the use of the word “brown” 125 times results in a metronomic uniformity, sometimes to the point of meaninglessness (just what is “rapid spruce brown”?). Akib’s illustrations do not help, as the characters lack ethnic specificity, with only some variations in dress and hair texture. The collection’s high point is the closing poem, “Brown,” which offers readers pace, variation, rhythm and emotion. Undoubtedly well-intentioned, this effort falls regrettably flat. (Picture book/poetry. 7-12)

Pub Date: April 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-89239-227-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Children's Book Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2009

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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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An edge-of-your-seat read.

THE CANYON'S EDGE

A girl’s birthdays mark parallel tragedies for her broken family unit.

Last year’s celebration at a restaurant ended in an unexplained public shooting, and Nora’s mother died. She and her father are still wrestling with their trauma, Nora with a confirmed diagnosis of PTSD. For this year’s outing, Nora and her father head into the deserts of the Southwest on a rock-climbing expedition. They descend into a 40-foot deep slot canyon, then hike along inside until a flash flood barrels through the canyon, washing away all their supplies…and Nora’s father. She’s left to survive this symbolic and living nightmare on her own. Thankfully, she can make continuous use of her parents’ thorough training in desert knowledge. Brief sections of prose bracket the meat of the story, which is in verse, a choice highly effective in setting tone and emotional resonance for the heightened situation. Bowling’s poems run a gamut of forms, transforming the literal shape of the text just as the canyon walls surrounding Nora shape her trek. The voice of Nora’s therapist breaks through occasionally, providing a counterpoint perspective. Nora is White while two characters seen in memories have brown skin. The narrative also names local Native peoples. Elements of the survival story and psychological thriller combine with strong symbolism to weave a winding, focused, stunning narrative ultimately about the search for healing.

An edge-of-your-seat read. (Adventure. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-49469-4

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

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