My favorite parts: My favorite thing is the thing I can’t tell you. It’s the thing that made me cry in the LAST TEN PAGES and which I never saw coming. But I guess, generally, I can say it was the friendship. This book is about an angsty, mixed up teen who needs the guidance of his bestie to help him get the girl. And his friend shows up every time for him. Giving him advice. Lending him money. Introducing him to older, wiser individuals and the all important jazz music that permeates the book. This book is sweet and then it’s unexpected and sad and hard. Alexander wrapped all his strings up so well at the end and right under my nose as a reader. In hind sight I should’ve added everything up and known what was coming, but I guess even readers get hopeful that maybe the world isn’t the way it ends up being. Or at least maybe books won’t reflect that sad world back to us.
What it’s about: A novel in verse about a teen boy coping with the sudden loss of his father.
What made me pick it up: I’m a huge fan of Alexander’s and read whatever he puts out. It helped that it was National Poetry Month and I was looking for books in verse.
My favorite parts: I really like the depiction of how sincerely mixed up this boy is since his dad’s death. He’s trying to be good but also he is having trouble coping and expressing his grief especially when everyone around him is afraid to bring up the subject or show their grief, even his mother and friends. Part of his grief is having panic attacks when sirens sound, and I appreciated the description of them and the understanding of the situation by supporting characters. You will really cheer for him to find his way forward with help from good friends and love of family. There is also a positive portrayal of using a journal to express your thoughts and feelings. You might cry — especially if you’ve read The Crossover.
What it’s about: Why you should follow your dream even if you can’t be sure of achieving it.
What made me pick it up: I adore Jason Reynolds and all he does for teens and readers. I enjoy his work so of course I’d like a pep talk from him.
My favorite parts: It’s short and powerful. He packs a big punch with his story of continuing to try to make art and live the creative life despite detractors telling him it was not a viable option. I liked that he was a not yet successful writer writing that it’s not success you’re after. It’s following your path and all the joy and struggle that brings. Like he says repeatedly: jump anyway.
Who it’s great for: Everyone. May be especially useful for new grads.
What it’s about: A book of poetry about abuse and assault and theoretical revenge. But mostly about how powerful women are, and how we will overcome.
What made me pick it up: It was available from my library’s downloadable collection on Freading so I could check it out right away. I had read Lovelace’s first collection and enjoyed it.
My favorite parts: I loved the messages of self love and acceptance. I could read poems that tell me how ass-kicking women are all day long. I also enjoy the reminders to pull other ladies up with you. We’re all in this together. I appreciated the trigger warning she included in the beginning. This content will punch you in the stomach, especially if you have familiarity with abuse, assault, or harassment. I definitely took screenshots of some of these poems to carry with me. Get angry, fantasize about getting even, but more than anything know how valuable you are.
Who it’s great for: Anyone sick of being quiet and nice and polite and proper in the face of abuse, harassment, threats, or assault. It’s our time.
What it’s about: Being American Indian in America, a country that doesn’t always respect that reality or treat it well.
What made me pick it up: I love poetry because it’s wonderful word play and brief (helpful if you, like me and Abby, are in a Goodreads competition). This being by an American Indian writer only made me more intrigued.
My favorite things: It’s difficult to put into words how this poetry affected me. Yes, it’s always good to be, even briefly, submersed in a culture that isn’t yours, but this… this is different. This is like a sucker punch. Every time. It’s wrenching and raw and you feel exposed as you witness an even more exposed writer. You viscerally experience her injustice. Her dualities and all her struggles. And you want to sincerely atone for everything that has happened to her people even though you know that is impossible. The damage is too great. I love poetry because it’s like math — it makes me focus, and think hard, and at the end be overcome with a sublime feeling of inspiration and awe because of the magic that appears on the page once you figure it out. I cannot recommend this enough.
Who it’s great for: Poetry fans. Anyone interested in American Indian history or experience.
Find this book on Amazon (affiliate link) or in your local library.
What it’s about: Poems and biographical notes tell the story of the first school for African American girls in Connecticut and the challenges it faced.
What made me pick it up: It was reviewed by a friend on Goodreads and I had never heard of either the book or the story of Prudence Crandall and her school. Thankfully the library had a copy so I ordered it in.
My favorite things: This book is written in poems and they give powerful snippets of both Crandall’s and the students’ experiences and the backlash they faced trying to get an education. They are difficult experiences which can be hard to read about but the authors work to not only tell the story but also impress upon readers why the students thought getting an education was important enough to risk it. The poems are accompanied by lovely illustrations.
Who it’s great for: Those looking for stories of African American history outside the usual characters.
Find this book on Amazon (affiliate link) or in your local library.
What it’s about: A picture book of poems written in the style of famous poets to celebrate those poets’ work.
What made me pick it up: I had read two of Alexander’s other books and enjoyed them so when I saw he was releasing this project I put my name on the list.
My favorite things: The illustrations in here are amazingly vibrant, not surprisingly since Ekua Holmes’ first illustration project was given a Caldecott Honor in 2016. These images manage to channel each poet just as much as the writing does. And the writing is quite good. I wasn’t familiar with all the poets but the ones I was, I can say for certain that these tribute poems are well done and match the style.
Who it’s great for: Young readers who want to know more about poetry and poets. Fans of exquisite illustrations.
Get a copy of this book at Amazon (affiliate link) or your local library.