"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Reviews: Four very different poetry books

Walking Gentry Home: A Memoir of My Foremothers in Verse by Alora Young
Penguin/Random House, 2022
Print. 212 pages. Audience: YA-Adult.

Walking Gentry Home tells the story of Alora Young's ancestors, from the unnamed women forgotten by the historical record but brought to life through Young's imagination; to Amy, the first of Young's foremothers to arrive in Tennessee, buried in an unmarked grave, unlike the white man who enslaved her and fathered her child; through Young's great-grandmother Gentry, unhappily married at fourteen; to her own mother, the teenage beauty queen rejected by her white neighbors; down to Young in the present day as she leaves childhood behind and becomes a young woman.

The lives of these girls and women come together to form a unique American epic in verse, one that speaks of generational curses, coming of age, homes and small towns, fleeting loves and lasting consequences, and the brutal and ever-present legacy of slavery in our nation's psyche. Each poem is a story in verse, and together they form a heart-wrenching and inspiring family saga of girls and women connected through blood and history.

Informed by archival research, the last will and testament of an enslaver, formal interviews, family lore, and even a DNA test, Walking Gentry Home gives voice to those too often muted in America: Black girls and women (Publisher).

Review: Alora Young has accomplished the almost impossible task of tracing her family lineage back seven or eight generations and in the process brings her foremothers to life through her poetry. Starting with Amy Coleman, a slave forced to have sex and bear the child of her enslaver, Harold Anderson. Almost all of her foremothers married young due to an unintended pregnancy, Young refers to this as her family's curse. As the poems drew closer in time and finally about herself I found more to relate to, or appreciated them more for how they could inform me of what life is like for Black women past and present. Many of the poems were hard to read for the darkness of the topics. Others were a joy to read for the family connections.

This poetry collection or memoir-in-verse does not fit neatly into a category. Each poem is written as a stand alone, yet taken as a whole all the poems form a story. Alora Young is a college student and the 2021 Youth Poet Laureate for the Southern United States. Because the author is young herself, it is supposed that the story would appeal to young adults, but I have a hard time imagining any teenagers who would pick up this collection. I think the target audience is really adults.

Rating: 4 stars.


The Real Dada Mother Goose: A Treasury of Complete Nonsense by Jon Scieszka, illustrated by Julia Rothman
Candlewick Press, 2022.
Print. 72 pages. Audience: Upper Elementary students
The classic nursery rhymes we know and love—upside-down, backward, in gibberish, and fresh out of bounds—as only Jon Scieszka could stage them (Publisher). 
Review: My sister, who was an Elementary reading teacher for most of her career in education, was more delighted with this book than I was, and I was thrilled with it. She kept exclaiming how kids don't know or understand Mother Goose these days, but this book would be a perfect manual for the types of activities that fourth or fifth grade teachers use to motivate and excite their students. "One by one, cherished nursery rhymes—from “Humpty Dumpty” to “Hickory Dickory Dock,” “Jack Be Nimble” to “Mother Hubbard”—fall prey to sly subversion as master of fracture Jon Scieszka and illustrator Julia Rothman refashion them into comics strips, errant book reports, anagrams, and manic mash-ups." Pure fun and a delight to read and experience.
Rating: 5 stars.

Ice Cycle: Poems About the Life of Ice by Maria Gianferrari, illustrated by Jieting Chen
Millbrook Press, 2022.
Print. Unpaged. Audience: Grades 1-4
A beautiful collaboration between verse and science. Brief poems and ethereal illustrations introduce readers to the many different types of ice on land and at sea. Fascinating back matter provides additional information about water as a solid, liquid, and gas, as well as more details about the unique forms of ice mentioned in the poems. Celebrate winter with this evocative and atmospheric exploration of ice! (Publisher)
Review: A few winters ago as I was walking the dog around the neighborhood I was stopped short by a unique ice formation seeming to come up from the earth like spikes. I'd never seen anything like it before. Now, after reading Ice Cycle I now know what I was looking at are called ice needles. A goal from my bucket list is to visit Yosemite National Park in the early spring or late winter when frazzle ice flows down the river. These types of books are so fun, combining poetry, information, and science. If you have a young budding scientist, like I do, look for this at your public library and request they buy it for the library collection if they don't have it. It would be a perfect book to read during the winter months when running into the different types of ice in nature is possible.

4 stars.


Book of Questions/Libro De Las Preguntas by Pablo Neruda, illustrated by Paloma Valdivia, translated from Spanish by Sara Lissa Paulson
Enchanted Lion Books. 2022.
Print. Unpaged. Target: All ages.

This bilingual Spanish-English edition is the first illustrated selection of questions, 60 in all, from Pablo Neruda's original poem (74 poems asking 316 questions) The Book of Questions, published in 1973. Holding the wonder and mystery of childhood and the experience and knowing that come with growing up, these questions are by turns lyrical, strange, surreal, spiritual, historical and political. They foreground the natural world, and their curiosity transcends all logic; and because they are paradoxes and riddles that embrace the limits of our ability to know, they engage with human freedom in the deepest way, removing the burden and constraint that somehow, we are meant to have answers to every question. Gorgeously, cosmically illustrated by Paloma Valdivia. So clearly rooted in Chilean landscapes as they are, the questions are revealed as a communion with nature and its mysteries (Publisher).
Review: Each of the 70 questions in this collection of questions come from the originals by Neruda, though only one is presented intact from the original. The other questions, presented in couplets, are drawn from the original, arranged loosely in thematic groups. I loved the illustrations and the unique presentation but admit to feeling disappointed with the poems themselves. Perhaps I should seek out the original for comparison.

Rating: 4 stars.


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