WE TROUBLED THE WATERS

Obie Award–winning playwright Shange teams up with illustrator Brown in this roughly linear collection of art and poetry vignettes from the Civil Rights Movement. The first poem’s title sets the chronology: “Booker T. Washington School, 1941.” Thanks to the abstract nature of the artwork and the ambiguous word choices, the final poem, “Heah Y’all Come,” accompanied by an illustration of the Washington Monument, could be about the famed March on Washington in 1963 or any of the gatherings since that time. The lives of everyday people are recounted alongside major figures of the day, such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. Although the art is rich and the poetry compelling, the lack of contextualization will make this challenging for younger readers. A case in point is the dedication page, which the author offers “to the Little Rock Nine with great appreciation”—yet instead of depicting the Nine, there is an illustration of a creek, and in the lower right-hand corner a dead body floats, face down. Worthwhile but best for older readers. (Picture book/poetry. 10-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-06-133735-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2009

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A moving, age-appropriate, and convincing portrayal of family resilience after trauma.

THE ROAD TO AFTER

Fleeing domestic abuse, a girl and her family begin a hard but hopeful journey to healing.

Eleven-year-old Lacey is shocked that Mama has called the police to take them, along with Lacey’s 4-year-old sister, Jenna, to safety—and unhappy at leaving the family dog behind. The girls are fearful and confused; Daddy’s rules prohibit leaving the house without him. Though he is put in jail, feeling safe will take time. Moving to transitional housing brings challenges. Lacey, home-schooled, has never had a friend. Daddy’s control over the family was absolute even when he wasn’t home to enforce it. Now Mama must learn to make her own decisions. Initially, Lacey misses Daddy’s rules, terrifying but known; she’s anxious at having new rules to follow, though breaking her father’s rules doesn’t bring retribution. With community help and support, the three timidly expand into their new life. Mama revives her artistic ambitions and, gaining strength, nurtures her daughters’ artistic gifts. Reading about Rachel Carson, Lacey finds life lessons in the natural world: observing how a sunflower grows from a seed and how a winding creek finds its own way. Lowell, who in an author’s note describes herself as a domestic-abuse survivor, focuses here on healing; the abuse is portrayed retrospectively—fitting, given her audience. Like her gentle illustrations, the verse format suits her story, a mosaic of small epiphanies that cumulatively chart a path from darkness into light. Characters’ race and ethnicities aren’t described explicitly.

A moving, age-appropriate, and convincing portrayal of family resilience after trauma. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-10961-8

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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A beautiful, powerful reflection on a tragic history.

ON THE HORIZON

In spare verse, Lowry reflects on moments in her childhood, including the bombings of Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima. 

When she was a child, Lowry played at Waikiki Beach with her grandmother while her father filmed. In the old home movie, the USS Arizona appears through the mist on the horizon. Looking back at her childhood in Hawaii and then Japan, Lowry reflects on the bombings that began and ended a war and how they affected and connected everyone involved. In Part 1, she shares the lives and actions of sailors at Pearl Harbor. Part 2 is stories of civilians in Hiroshima affected by the bombing. Part 3 presents her own experience as an American in Japan shortly after the war ended. The poems bring the haunting human scale of war to the forefront, like the Christmas cards a sailor sent days before he died or the 4-year-old who was buried with his red tricycle after Hiroshima. All the personal stories—of sailors, civilians, and Lowry herself—are grounding. There is heartbreak and hope, reminding readers to reflect on the past to create a more peaceful future. Lowry uses a variety of poetry styles, identifying some, such as triolet and haiku. Pak’s graphite illustrations are like still shots of history, adding to the emotion and somber feeling. He includes some sailors of color among the mostly white U.S. forces; Lowry is white.

A beautiful, powerful reflection on a tragic history. (author’s note, bibliography) (Memoir/poetry. 10-14)

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-358-12940-0

Page Count: 80

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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