The fascinating illustrations matched with the dazzling imagery of Medina’s tanka make this a captivating release.

THIRTEEN WAYS OF LOOKING AT A BLACK BOY

In elegant tanka verse, veteran poet Medina focuses the spotlight on the beauty of black boys with the help of an all-star cast of illustrators.

A premier slate of illustrators, including Kesha Bruce, Floyd Cooper, Javaka Steptoe, Ekua Holmes, and more, give the poems life. The poems “celebrate the preciousness and creativity” of black boyhood, when the author finds that “Black boys are alive with wonder and possibility / With hopes and dreams.” The collection of tanka flows through topics such as family, spirituality, self-confidence, and the stressors of working-class life. While emphasizing their universal appeal, Medina cites that these collected poems were originally inspired by photographs of the residents of Anacostia, a historically black neighborhood threatened by gentrification in the southeast section of Washington, D.C. The title has its own genealogy, emerging from Wallace Steven’s 1952 poem “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” and Raymond Patterson’s 1969 “Twenty-Six Ways of Looking at a Black Man,” a classic of the 1960s-era Black Arts Movement. The standout introduction, “Thirteen Ways,” attunes readers to the “three dimensions” of beauty inspired by these Anacostia black boys: “Black boys be bouquets of tanka / Bunched up like flowers / They be paint blotched into a myriad of colors / Across the canvases of our hearts.”

The fascinating illustrations matched with the dazzling imagery of Medina’s tanka make this a captivating release. (Poetry. 5-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9987999-4-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Penny Candy

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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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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Compassionate optimism for a boy who can’t control the chaos around him.

WHAT ABOUT WILL

What can a good kid do when his big brother starts being a problem?

Twelve-year-old Trace Reynolds, who is White and Puerto Rican, wants to get noticed for the right reasons: good grades, Little League, pulling weeds for Mr. Cobb next door. Seventeen-year-old Will used to be the best brother, but now he’s so angry. He’s played football since he was a little kid and has been tackled plenty; when he gets horrifically hurt in a JV game, it’s just one too many head injuries. It’s been a year and a half since Will’s traumatic brain injury, and he’s got a hair-trigger temper. He has chronic headaches, depression, and muscle spasms that prevent him from smiling. Trace knows it’s rotten for Will, but still, why did his awesome brother have to give up all his cool friends? Now he argues with their dad, hangs out with losers—and steals Trace’s stuff. At least Trace has a friend in Catalina Sánchez, the new girl on Little League. Her dad’s a retired major leaguer, and she has sibling problems too. Observations from Trace frame Cat as praiseworthy by virtue of her not being like the other girls, a mindset that conveys misogynistic overtones. The fears of stable, straight-arrow athlete Trace are clarified in lovely sparks of concrete poetry among Hopkins’ free verse, as he learns to tell adults when he sees his beloved brother acting dangerously.

Compassionate optimism for a boy who can’t control the chaos around him. (author's note) (Verse novel. 9-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-10864-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2021

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