"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=========

Wednesday, February 21, 2024


Nearer My Freedom: The Interesting Life of Olaudah Equiano By Himself
by Monica Ediger and Lesley Younge

Zest Books, Minneapolis. 2023.
Target Audience: Grades 9-12.

Olaudah Equiano was born in an Igbo village in what is now southern Nigeria in 1745, captured and enslaved as a child and shipped to the Caribbean where he was sold to a Royal Navy officer. He was sold twice more before he was able to buy his own freedom in 1766. In the 1789 he wrote an autobiography about his life and experiences, The Interesting Narrative of Olaudah Equiano. It was quite popular with the abolitionists in Britain and actually may have helped lead to the Slave Trade Act of 1807.
Using this narrative as a primary source text, authors Monica Edinger and Lesley Younge share Equiano's life story in "found verse," supplemented with annotations to give readers historical context. This poetic approach provides interesting analysis and synthesis, helping readers to better understand the original text. Follow Equiano from his life in Africa as a child to his enslavement at a young age, his travels across the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea, his liberation, and his life as a free man. (Publisher)
I've read several biographies-in-verse but never one written in found verse or poems before. According to the authors, a found poem is created using the words, phrases, and quotes from a source text that are then rearranged into verse. Here is an example of how it worked, the highlighted text is what is pulled out for the poem.
One day when none of the grown people were nigh
two men and a woman got over our walls,
seized my dear sister and me.
No time to cry out or make resistance.
They stopped our mouths,
and ran off with us into the woods.
They tied our hands and carried us
as far as they could, till night came.

It's pretty amazing what Ediger and Younge were able to do from the original text. They have created a book that is one that can open up Olaudah Equiano's story to a new generation of readers. I include myself in that statement. I'd never read his autobiography but now I know his story. Bravo!

Spare Parts (Young Reader's Edition): The True Story of Four Undocumented Teenagers, One Ugly Robot, and an Impossible Dream by Joshua Davis and Reyna Grande

Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, New York. 2023.
Target audience: Grades 8-12.
A riveting true story about dreams, dedication, and an amazing robot named Stinky, based on Joshua Davis' New York Times bestseller and now adapted for young readers by bestselling Mexican American author Reyna Grande.

In 2004, four undocumented Mexican teenagers arrived at the national underwater robotics championship at the University of California, Santa Barbara. No one had ever told Oscar, Cristian, Luis, or Lorenzo that they would amount to much―until two inspiring high school science teachers convinced the boys to enter the competition. Up against some of the best collegiate engineers in the country, this team of underdogs from Phoenix, Arizona, scraped together spare parts and a few small donations to astound not only the competition's judges but themselves, too. 

Spare Parts is both timely and empowering. It is an accessible introduction to STEM, immigration, and the reality of the American Dream. Four boys end up in the US because their parents left Mexico, believing a better life awaited them in America. But life didn't seem better to these boys as they found it difficult to fit in or even make plans for the future. They all stumbled into the robotics program as a place to make connection with others. What they found was camaraderie, hard work, high expectations, ingenuity, and creativity. When they decided to enter the NASA competition their goal was to not get last place. How could four high school boys with next-to-no resources, go up against older, more sophisticated college teams? 

Well, apparently when one is given very little except determination and ingenuity it is amazing what can be produced.

My only quibble with this book is the time lag. The boys won the competition in 2004. The adult book by Joshua Davis was published in 2014. A movie about the boys and their accomplishments was made in 2015. Why did it take twenty years to write a young readers version of the book, to tell the story to its proper audience?


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