Prose By Any Other Name...
In my conversations with library customers, I've noticed folks feel pretty strongly about poetry - both positively and negatively. There are quite a few who believe "poetry's just not for me".
I love proving people wrong!
Done well, poetry can convey ideas in a new and fresh way. Done amazingly well, those ideas can be connected into an entire story. Just in time for National Poetry Month, here are some amazing books written in verse.
Salt: A Story of Friendship in a Time of War by Helen Frost
Anikwa, a Miami Indian, and James, the son of traders, are two twelve-year-olds whose friendship involves hunting and fishing on the land. However, the year is 1812, and the land itself will soon become a point of contention for the boys' respective families, and their nations. Whether or not the war will affect the mindsets of James and Anikwa is at the heart of the story Salt.
Frost has been meticulous in her research of the time period, including a glossary of the Miami words mentioned in the story, as well as consulting modern day Native Americans about the customs of their ancestors. Written in prose, the story is told form the perspective of both boys. James words are displayed in standard left to right text - bringing to mind the stripes of the American Flag. Anikwa's words contract and expand, which is reminiscent of the ribbon work of the Miami tribe. Beautifully written and presented, Helen Frost introduces us to the common theme of friendship and how it manages in a most unique time. (Ages 10-14)
Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson
" 'For God so loved the world...he gave his only begotten son'. But what about his daughters, I wondered. What did God do with his daughters?"
While I was intrigued by this story from the very beginning, this quote solidified it for me. Among the "daughters" in this story are childhood friends Sylvia, Angela, Gigi, and narrator August. The girls navigate their coming of age in 1970s Brooklyn, which proves to be its own entity - equal parts dazzling and dangerous. Woodson has created beautifully distinct characters in each of the young ladies; their triumphs and tragedies make for an emotional read. (Ages 12 and up)
Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai
Much discussion has been had over "the immigration issue" recently, but rarely is the experience spoken from the viewpoint of the immigrants themselves. 10 year old Ha Ma tells a measured but matter-of-fact tale of her family's journey to escape the Vietnam War. Her journey from Saigon to Alabama is just as weird and wonderful as you imagine it would be; the reader will be rooting for Ha and her brother throughout this story. (Ages 12-14)
The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney
In a similar fashion to Inside Out and back Again, The Red Pencil takes us through the perils of a war-torn country, this time in Sudan. The story begins innocently enough- Amira has just turned twelve, and has hope for the future- which includes her going to school. Soon after, however, the warring Janjaweed arrive to her village- and nearly everything she held dear is lost. During her treacherous journey to a refugee camp, Amira must remain focused on survival. The camp carries its own dangers, and the most arduous task remains- for Amira to regain hope. Will the gift of a red pencil help Amira learn to dream again? (Ages 12-14)
Crossover by Kwame Alexander
Quite often, Newbery Award winning books are praised for their literary excellence by adults- and ignored by children when it comes to reading for pleasure. 2014 was enjoyable year for everyone when this book was chosen for the top honor. Combining basketball with poetry, Kwame Alexander delights readers with his account of family and basketball. Main character Josh Bell is a force to be reckoned with on the basketball court, as is his twin brother Jordan.Josh is also gifted poetically, and its through his voice that we follow his family's triumphs and tragedies as well as his basketball season. A perfect mix of lay-ups and lyricism, this book is an entertaining read for all ages. (Ages 12-14)