A Passel of Poetry
We’ve already discussed a couple of poetry books (SWIRL BY SWIRL, NEVER FORGOTTEN) and a couple of verse novels (INSIDE OUT & BACK AGAIN and EDDIE’S WAR) and I think they stand the best chance of Newbery recognition in their respective genres, but there is actually a rich, diverse field of books published this year to choose from.
EMMA DILEMMA by Kristine O’Connell George . . . A charming collection of poems about being a big sister. Three starred reviews, SLJ list.
EVERY THING ON IT by Shel Silverstein . . . This posthumous collection will undoubtedly be the biggest hit with children, but the quality of poems is uneven, the drawings provide the punch line for many of them, and they do not tend to reward multiple readings with new insights and appreciation. Three stars, SLJ list.
THE GREAT MIGRATION by Eloise Greenfield . . . We’ve already discussed the Great Migration in the context of HEART AND SOUL, but Greenfield’s poetry cycle also honors the movement of African Americans from the rural South to the urban North. Four stars.
ROOTS AND BLUES by Arnold Adoff . . . Adoff’s signature shaped speech poetry is not the most accessible style, but this book is a perfect marriage of form and subject. Four stars, Kirkus and SLJ lists. It’s a nice companion book for BLUES JOURNEY by Walter Dean Myers, and speaking of Myers . . .
WE ARE AMERICA by Walter Dean Myers . . . One of our most decorated children’s poets, Myers’s latest poem is a patriotic paean that celebrates America even as it acknowledges her shortcomings. Two stars, Kirkus list.
ADDIE ON THE INSIDE by James Howe . . . This one has a lot of things working against it–it’s a sequel, it’s a school story, it’s political–but it’s definitely worth a read. Two stars, SLJ list.
HIDDEN by Helen Frost . . . Frost always creates these complicated forms and then writes really good verse novels. For me, the forms are so complicated that it’s hard for me to truly appreciate them in a literary sense. I do marvel at her skill, but in the same way that I marvel at the skill of a good maker of crossword puzzles. I had the same problem with MIRROR, MIRROR last year. One star, Kirkus list.
HURRICANE DANCERS by Margarita Engle . . . Since winning a Newbery Honor for SURRENDER TREE, Engle’s subsequent verse novels get mentioned regularly as Newbery possibilities, but it’s been a relatively buzz free year. One star.
PLANET MIDDLE SCHOOL by Nikki Grimes . . . BRONX MASQUERADE is one of my all-time favorites so I make a dilligent effort to read her stuff. This is another strong effort, but I don’t think it separates itself from this pack of verse novels, let alone the entire field. One star.
THE WATCH THAT ENDS THE NIGHT by Allan Wolf . . . This is probably the best verse novel of the year, but it’s size (400+ pages) and questions about its audience will make it difficult to build consensus around. Three stars, Horn Book list.
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About Jonathan Hunt
Jonathan Hunt is the Coordinator of Library Media Services at the San Diego County Office of Education. He served on the 2006 Newbery committee, and has also judged the Caldecott Medal, the Printz Award, the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. You can reach him at email@example.com
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