STEADY HANDS

POEMS ABOUT WORK

Walt Whitman’s “I Hear America Singing” receives an invigorating revival in this poetry collection that illuminates the pressures and pleasures of work, including some 34 career choices. “Morning” conveys the vigorous energy work demands through crisp imagery and dynamic phrases: “Engines hum / heels click / and doors thud / behind ambitions.” Poems often describe the ordinary and technical components of the job; “Librarian” features a male librarian’s preparation for his boys-only book club. Others elucidate the surprising motivations behind workers’ chosen career paths; “Dog Walker” reveals that a former attorney sought this less stressful career because “the predictable company of dogs / ...didn’t give him nightmares / or cold sweats / the way standing before / a glowering judge and jury did.” Halsey and Addy’s illustrations match the emotions of the varied subjects, the mixed-media art exuding a muted grittiness as characters perform their daily tasks. Compiled photographs, papers and household objects create multifaceted collages and textured backdrops, and the result is an intriguing, albeit offbeat, examination of the world of work. (Picture book/poetry. 9-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-618-90351-1

Page Count: 46

Publisher: Clarion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2008

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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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Don’t let anyone miss this.

LOCOMOTION

Count on award-winning Woodson (Visiting Day, p. 1403, etc.) to present readers with a moving, lyrical, and completely convincing novel in verse.

Eleven-year-old Lonnie (“Locomotion”) starts his poem book for school by getting it all down fast: “This whole book’s a poem ’cause every time I try to / tell the whole story my mind goes Be quiet! / Only it’s not my mind’s voice, / it’s Miss Edna’s over and over and over / Be quiet! . . . So this whole book’s a poem because poetry’s short and / this whole book’s a poem ’cause Ms. Marcus says / write it down before it leaves your brain.” Lonnie tells readers more, little by little, about his foster mother Miss Edna, his teacher Ms. Marcus, his classmates, and the fire that killed his parents and separated him from his sister. Slowly, his gift for observing people and writing it down lets him start to love new people again, and to widen his world from the nugget of tragedy that it was. Woodson nails Lonnie’s voice from the start, and lets him express himself through images and thoughts that vibrate in the different kinds of lines he puts down. He tends to free verse, but is sometimes assigned a certain form by Ms. Marcus. (“Today’s a bad day / Is that haiku? Do I look / like I even care?”) As in her prose novels, Woodson’s created a character whose presence you can feel like they were sitting next to you. And with this first novel-in-verse for her, Lonnie will sit by many readers and teach them to see like he does, “This day is already putting all kinds of words / in your head / and breaking them up into lines / and making the lines into pictures in your mind.”

Don’t let anyone miss this. (Fiction. 9-13)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-399-23115-3

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2002

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