X Marks the Spot (In My Heart)
As verse novel goes — The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo is near perfection. So many high caliber poems one after another with surprising, haunting, beautiful, raw, and revealing lines.
If I were to present it at a Newbery Committee meeting, I would definitely recite some of the following:
Maybe because I can’t keep the billboard frown off my face,
the one that announces I’d rather be anywhere but here.
p.33 (about the experiences of males from her own life)
they are the only scales I have
How does a girl like me figure out the weight
of what it means to love a boy?
p. 45 (about Twin)
… I never told her
he didn’t fight because my hands
learn how to bleed when other kids
tried to make him into a wound.
page 103 (about how she experiences first love, connected to her poetic heart)
like I’ve been gifted a box of metaphor Legos
that I stack and stack and stack.
And these are all from but the first 1/3 of the book!
If I were on the Newbery Committee, I would not have the luxury of time to recite full poems but I would draw my committee members’ attention to certain poems such as
Oh — “How I Feel about Attention” (page 48). I would remind others how the Medusa metaphor works so well through each and every stanza.
I would point out how the words and the tilted shape of “After” across pages 52 and 53 p. captures both textually and visually Xiomara’s constant existence under sexual micro-and-macro-aggressions and how visually impactful another shape poem “Ants” is from
page 198 to page 201 and how “Silent World” (p.223) is Raw and Angry and Real.
This is the book that takes on many themes: from body type, microaggressions, homosexuality, teen sexual awakening, religion and family dynamics, the power of words and poetry, etc. and weaves each one seamlessly into a cohesive and literary narrative. Very distinguished in its presentation of themes. Not to mention the skilled portrayal of the main and supporting characters and distinct narrative voice and style.
If I were on the Newbery Committee, I would have to prepare myself to defend the work when “age range” queries arise. I would also most likely compare it to other poetic narratives such as Rebound by Alexander or Martin Rising by the Pinkneys.
As a National Book Award finalist, The Poet X only received one nomination from Heavy Medal readers. I definitely plan on nominating it for our November round. Would anyone else add it to their top contenders list?
Filed under: Book Discussion
About Roxanne Hsu Feldman
Roxanne Hsu Feldman is the Middle School (4th to 8th grade) Librarian at the Dalton School in New York City. She served on the 2002 and 2013 Newbery Committees. Roxanne was also a member of 2008-2009 Notable Books for Children, 2015 Best Fiction for Young Adults, and the 2017 Odyssey Award Committees. In 2016 Roxanne was one of the three judges for the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards. You can reach her at at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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