Saturday, October 04, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Poetry: Orchards by Holly Thompson




1.  BIBLIOGRAPHY
Thompson, Holly. Orchards. Ill. by Grady McFerrin.  New York: Delacorte Press, 2011. ISBN 038573977X.

2.  PLOT SUMMARY
Fourteen year old half-Japanese, half Jewish American, Kana Goldberg is sent to her mother’s ancestral home in Japan after the suicide of one of her classmates – who Kana and her friends weren’t exactly nice to.  Spending the summer months under the watchful eye of her traditional grandmother working in mikan orange groves wasn’t exactly on her list of great ways to spend a vacation. But, the more she learns about her family and their past, the more she opens up about what happened and begins to grow – when news from home throws her for another loop.  Her family and friends from home help her to realize the best thing she can do to honor the memory of those lost is in how she continues to live.

3.  CRITICAL ANALYSIS
In short phrases and quiet reflection, Thompson walks the reader through one half-Japanese, half-Jewish American girl’s growth as she deals with being sent to spend the summer with her Japanese relatives in the wake of a suicide of a girl from her class.  Kana’s guilt over being complacent in the girl’s treatment and the adjustment of feeling like an outsider in the midst of her traditional family dance the reader through Japanese tradition and running from emotion, only to have them sneak back around.  The verses flow gently with the simple words.  There is a quiet movement of thought in the lines without the harshness of what she is dealing with breaking the surface - like gentle water meandering around the page.  She is coming to terms in her own time, through reflection and piecing it together rather than forced ideas.  Her internal growth mirror the orchards of mikan oranges she must help her family tend – at first they are small and crowded, and the excess must be trimmed away repeatedly to get to the good fruit that is waiting to grow.  She must even return to the states before seeing the fruit ripen, walking the path toward her final growth once she is home and ready to continue to live in the wake of a second death.  Small ink illustrations of bento boxes, Mt. Fuji, orchards, and mikan trees interspersed throughout the poems and chapters pair with the simplicity of the verses without taking away from the impact of the words.

4.  REVIEW EXCERPT(S)
2012 APALA ASIAN/​PACIFIC AMERICAN AWARD FOR LITERATURE
A YALSA 2012 BEST FICTION FOR YOUNG ADULTS TITLE
A BANK STREET 2012 BEST CHILDREN'S BOOKS OF THE YEAR TITLE
SCBWI 2012 CRYSTAL KITE WINNER
2012-2013 ISINGLASS TEEN READ AWARD NOMINEE
A 2011 LIBRARIANS' CHOICE: POETRY TITLE
SHORTLISTED FOR A RED DOT BOOK AWARD 2011-2012
SHORTLISTED FOR A SAKURA MEDAL AWARD 2012
From PUBLISHER’S WEEKLY – "Eloquently captures a teenager's anger, guilt, and sorrow after a classmate takes her own life.... Understated yet potent verse."

From BOOKLIST -- "Readers will want to talk about the big issues, especially the guilt of doing nothing."

5.  CONNECTIONS
Gather other poetry and verse books about fitting in to read such as:
     Lai, Thanhha. INSIDE OUT AND BACK AGAIN. ISBN 0061962783
     Mccall, Guadalupe Garcia. UNDER THE MESQUITE.  ISBN 1600604293.
     Hopkins, Ellen. IMPULSE. ISBN 1416903569.

Gather other Holly Thompson books to read such as:
     THE LANGUAGE INSIDE. ISBN 0385739796. 
     Ills. Kazumi Wilds. THE WAKAME GATHERERS.  ISBN 1885008333.

BOOK REVIEW: Poetry: Fireflies at Midnight by Marilyn Singer





1.  BIBLIOGRAPHY
Singer, Marilyn. Fireflies at Midnight. Ill. by Ken Robbins.  New York: Atheneum Books, 2003.  ISBN 0689824920.

2.  PLOT SUMMARY
Fireflies at Midnight is a short collection of animal poems, each with a unique style and voice that takes the reader from the robin’s nest at dawn to the vole’s hole as he heads to sleep the following morning.  Photographs, which have been expertly manipulated into striking artwork, complete the stillness or movement of each poem and help to set the mood as time moves through each poem.

3.  CRITICAL ANALYSIS
Singer puts together a delightful collection of animal poems organized by time of day: starting at dawn and working from sunrise to sunrise – from the early rising to the last to go to bed.  Her imagery in words flits and moves across the page giving the same tone and feeling as the animals she has paired with the time:  the ants march “one and one and one and one” to their task, while the frog proclaims himself “baron I’m the baron” of his pond.  Meter and verse shift just as seamlessly as the animals themselves from butterflies to lazy horses in the heat of the day.   Coupled with Ken Robbins stylized and edited full color photographs, you can almost hear their unique voices as each animal shares their short moment with the reader.

4.  REVIEW EXCERPT(S)
SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNALS BEST BOOKS OF 2003
From SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL – “Each spread contains a verse opposite an illustration of the featured animal in its environment. Robbins's "photographic treatments" use full-color, graphically enhanced photos and photo collage for an almost painterly effect. These portraits perfectly echo the tone of the poems as subjects soar, hide, flit, and sit.”
From BOOKLIST – “There's information about the animals subtly imbedded in many poems, such as these lines that follow the darting motion of a hunting bat: "I hear / I see / in waves of sound . . . I fly I find / I near / I seize."”

5.  CONNECTIONS
Gather other animal poetry books to read such as:
     Sidman, Joyce. Ills. Beckie Prange. SONG OF THE WATER BOATMAN AND OTHER POND POEMS.  ISBN 0618135472.
     Hauth, Katherine B. Ills. David Clark. WHAT’S FOR DINNER? QUIRKY, SQUIRMY POEMS FROM THE ANIMAL WORLD.  ISBN 1570914710.

Gather other poetry books that highlight different themes by Marilyn Singer:

     Ills. Noah Z. Jones.  THE SUPERHEROES EMPLOYMENT AGENCY. ISBN 0547435592.
     Ills. Josee Masse. MIRROR MIRROR: A BOOK OF REVERSIBLE VERSE. ISBN 0525479015.
     Ills. Gris Grimly. MONSTER MUSEUM. ISBN 078680520X.

BOOK REVIEW: Poetry: Remember the Bridge: Poems of a People by Carole Boston Weatherford





1.  BIBLIOGRAPHY
Weatherford, Carole Boston. Remember the Bridge: Poems of a People. New York: Philomel Books, 2002.  ISBN 0399237267.

2.  PLOT SUMMARY
Take a walk through four hundred years of African American history – through masterful poems, intricate drawings, and striking photographs.  Weatherford tells the story of her past in words that express heartache and passion, triumph and defiance in the faces of the famous and everyday people – those forgotten to time and those written on the face of history.  Striking black and white drawings and photographs draw the words of the poetry into a striking contrast as the rhythm of her poetry brings to mind the sing-song quality African drum beats and the stories that followed them across the oceans.

3.  CRITICAL ANALYSIS
Remember the Bridge is striking in its depth, but simple enough for a beginning reader to explore the themes of slavery, oppression, journey, and strength.  Each page presents a new character or place, important to African and American history and each poem reminds the reader of the past while giving courage for the future.  From the first tribesmen sent to the New World and the soldiers who fought in the Civil Wars to Rosa Parks and Mae Jemison (first African American female astronaut), each piece of history is presented as equally important to the struggle and triumph of spirit.  Paired with antique drawings and striking black and white photographs of the subject/s the poems on each page draw you in and invite you to think back on how far each person has moved in four hundred years. 

Each poem has a different feel, some rhyming, some not and many of the rhymes are predictive, which while great for small children, may take an older reader out of the imagery.

4.  REVIEW EXCERPT(S)
2002 NORTH CAROLINA AAUW AWARD FOR JUVENILE LITERATURE
FROM KIRKUS REVIEWS – “Almost all of these poems are rhymed, with many fairly shouting to be read out loud with a strong beat. Each poem is paired with a vintage photograph or illustration, augmented by an attractive page design with the titles set in brown.”
From PUBLISHERS WEEKLY – “Weatherford's free verse can be eloquent, but when molded to the meter of rhyme, her poetry at times becomes pedestrian and cliched ("Me, in my sailor suit/ off to Sunday school,/ ready with a Bible verse/ and the Golden Rule"). The order of the material is confusing as well the narrative starts out chronologically, then skips around, as when a photo of a 1930s farming family appears before a mention of a Civil War regimental hero.”

5.  CONNECTIONS
Gather other poetry books that showcase African writers such as:
     Roessel, David and Arnold Rampersand, eds. POETRY FOR YOUNG PEOPLE: LANGSTON HUGHES.  ISBN 1454903287.
     Giovanni, Nikki. Ills. Michele Noiset. HIP HOP SPEAKS TO CHILDREN: A CELEBRATION OF POETRY WITH A BEAT. ISBN 1402210485.

Gather other Carole Boston Weatherford books to read such as:
     Ills. Sean Qualls. BEFORE JOHN WAS A JAZZ GIANT: A SONG OF JOHN COLTRANE. ISBN 0805079947.
     Ills. Tim Ladwig. THE BEATITUDES: FROM SLAVERY TO CIVIL RIGHTS.  ISBN 9780802853523.