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A WREATH FOR EMMETT TILL by Marilyn Nelson Kirkus Star

A WREATH FOR EMMETT TILL

By Marilyn Nelson (Author) , Phillippe Lardy (Illustrator)

Age Range: 12 & up

Pub Date: April 4th, 2005
ISBN: 0-618-39752-3
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Only Marilyn Nelson can take one of the most hideous events of the 20th century and make of it something glorious: An intricate cycle of 15 sonnets—an Heroic Crown, in which the last sonnet is made up of the first lines of the previous 14. As she considers the lynching of Emmett Till, she uses the traditional “language of flowers,” plaiting rosemary for remembrance, heliotrope for justice, daisies for innocence through her wreath. Individual poems speak in the voices of a witnessing tree and of Mamie Till Mobley, and broaden the mourning to include all victims of violence. It’s a towering achievement, one whose power and anger and love will make breath catch in the throat and bring tears to the eyes. Children’s book newcomer Lardy’s illustrations are bold and powerful, appropriately choosing disturbing imagery over depictions that are more realistic. The poem is followed by a brief account of Till’s lynching, glosses on the individual poems and an essay from the artist explaining his choices of imagery. The latter two are rather unfortunate additions, as the words, purified in the crucible of the form, speak eloquently enough on their own. (Poetry. 12+)