Adoff creates a moving meditation on the roots of American blues. The poet explores the profound relationship between the enslavement of Africans and the music born of that brutalization: “This New World music m o v e s with shackle sounds.” Recurring metaphors flow through the 60 poems, riffing on trauma and triumph. Metal, for one: the clank of chains on ships and chain gangs; a hoe striking rock; the reverberating steel of guitar strings and piano wire. Blood signifies death but also “the / r i c h / red / c h i l d / b i r t h / c o l o r / o f / j o y.” Spare, spondaic lines pulse, connecting the mundane (church, cooking) with the music’s transcendence. Some poems center on specific performers. The poet wryly considers Robert Johnson’s alleged bargain with the devil: “We can still tell that story and smile as we sing his words. His soul is in his songs and his songs live deep on blue e a r t h.” Christie’s Expressionistic acrylics employ a palette of crimson, teal and brown, reserving grays for faces and hands, linking shackled slaves with sharecroppers, rocking grandmothers with juke-joint dancers. An incandescent, important work. (Poetry. 8 & up)


Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-547-23554-7

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2010

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Read it; gift it; use it to challenge, protect, and grow.



Poets Browne (Black Girl Magic, illustrated by Jess X. Snow, 2018), Acevedo (The Poet X, 2018), and Gatwood (Life of the Party, 2019) team up to offer a collection that calls young readers to awareness and justice.

Browne’s introduction explains what it means to be woke—“aware of your surroundings”—and connects this awareness to historical movements for justice, stating, “this is where our freedom begins.” The poems are assigned subject headings located next to the page numbers, in nearly alphabetical order, for easy access when flipping through this slim volume for inspiration. Some poems cover quiet topics that nourish individuals and relationships, such as body positivity, forgiveness, individuality, and volunteerism. Other poems are louder, calling for lifted voices. In “Activism, Everywhere,” Browne writes, “It is resisting to be comfortable / When we all have yet to feel safe and free”; her protest poem, titled “Right To, After Claude McKay,” powerfully echoes McKay’s historic verses while reversing the premise: “If we must live, let it not be in silence.” A resistance poem by Acevedo urges readers to “Rock the Boat,” and Gatwood’s poem on privilege asks, “What’s in My Toolbox?” Identity issues are covered too, with poems on disability, gender, immigration, and intersectionality. Each of the 24 poems is an irresistible invitation to take up space in community and in society, and each is eminently recitable, taking its own place in the spoken-word tradition. Taylor’s bold and colorful illustrations complement the poems without distracting from their power; Jason Reynolds contributes a foreword.

Read it; gift it; use it to challenge, protect, and grow. (Picture book/poetry. 8-18)

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-31120-7

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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From snapping shrimp with bubble-shooting claws to the Osedax worm that digests whalebones on the ocean floor, intriguing and unusual sea creatures are introduced in this collection of 18 engaging poems written in a variety of forms. A paragraph or two of identification and explanation follow each poem. This attractive small volume is illustrated with hand-colored linoleum block prints set on a blue-green background that darkens page by page as the reader descends. “Dive In!” introduces the habitat, and, on the last page, “Hooray for the Sea and the ROV” celebrates the ocean and the vehicles humans use to explore its deepest parts. One piece calls for two voices, a leopard sea cucumber and an emperor shrimp. Shape poems introduce the violet snail and a swarm of krill. These poems lend themselves to reading aloud, and many are short and catchy enough to be easily memorized. Concluding with a helpful glossary, a clear explanation of the poetic forms that points out rhymes, patterns and beats, suggested further resources and acknowledgements, this is an ideal title for cross-curricular connections. This gathering of humorous poetry and fascinating facts should be welcomed as a companion to Bulion and Evans’ previous collaboration, Hey There, Stink Bug! (2006)—even the surprise among the school of krill on the endpapers will make readers smile. (Informational poetry. 8-12)

Pub Date: April 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-56145-565-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Peachtree

Review Posted Online: April 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2011

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