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DESHAWN DAYS by Tony Medina


by Tony Medina & illustrated by R. Gregory Christie

Age Range: 7 - 10

Pub Date: July 1st, 2001
ISBN: 1-58430-022-1
Publisher: Lee & Low

A series of free-verse poems gives readers a relentless look at the bright side of life in the projects. Told in the oh-so-childlike voice of 10-year-old DeShawn, they cover such topics as “What Is Life Like in the ’Hood,” “Watching the News,” “I Hate Graffiti,” and “I Love My Block.” The loosely linked poems present snapshots of DeShawn’s life and the important people in it, showing how he confronts, copes with, and ultimately overcomes the inescapable harshness of his environment. In this offering, his first for children, Medina presents a verse that is coyly artless, often employing a too-cute exclamation point: about his beloved grandma, DeShawn writes that “Everybody likes her—even my friends / when they come over they end / calling her Ma just like I do!” A little bit of this goes a long way, and there is not enough subtlety or craft to the verse to compensate. Christie’s (Only Passing Through, 2000, etc.) bright, faux-primitive acrylics carry more power than the text, but the out-of-proportion figures are ultimately unattractive—the ungainly image of DeShawn’s grandmother that accompanies the poem “My Grandmother’s Legs” is undeniably strong, but it is hard to see the loving woman that DeShawn describes. Obviously an attempt to create a resilient, innocent character whose family, imagination, and sweet nature help him to survive in a difficult world, it serves up a sort of project Pollyanna. Sincerity to spare, but not much else. (Picture book/poetry. 7-10)