Review by New York Times Review
BY SHARING POETRY with young people, we are holding a seashell up to their ears. We are giving them an entire ocean of voices, of experiences and possibilities, in a tiny, but beautiful, package. Sometimes, those voices might seem far off and hard to decipher; other times they might sound like home. But they need to be heard. Here are four new books of verse for young readers that should not be ignored. KWAME ALEXANDER BRINGS hIS signature verse to REBOUND (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 4i4pp., $16.99; ages io to 12) It's the summer of 1988 and 12-year-old Charlie Bell struggles to find his footing after his father's death. ("Rebound" is the prequel to Alexander's Newbery Award-winning "The Crossover.") When "soaring above / the sorrow and grief / seemed impossible," Charlie retreats from his mother and friends into the world of comic books. As his relationship with his mother grows strained, and Charlie is caught stealing from a neighbor, he is shipped off to his grandparents for the summer. There, he spends his days doing chores for his "hustle and grind, peace of mind" Granddad, and tagging along while Granddad volunteers at the Boys and Girls Club. There, his basketball-loving cousin, Roxie, gets him back into the game. As Charlie allows himself to enjoy the things he once shared with his father, he begins to pick up the pieces of his shattered universe. I feel a little more normal like maybe he's still here, but not in a ghost kind of way, more like in a as long as I remember him he's still right here in my heart kind of way "Rebound" grapples with grief and loss, but never buckles under the weight of it. Alexander's verse, although slightly more subdued than in "The Crossover," maintains energy and momentum, and Charlie's sadness is skillfully counterbalanced by occasional pages of graphic novel panels (illustrated by Dawud Anyabwile), as well as by fast-paced basketball sequences and pop culture references. Readers familiar with "The Crossover" will find themselves smiling as details of Charlie's early life emerge that give us glimpses of the man and father he will later become; those who haven't read it will find it a strong and satisfying stand-alone book about grief, love and the power of family. THE POET X (HarperTeen, 357 pp., $17.99; ages 13 and up), the debut verse novel by the poet Elizabeth Acevedo, ventures farther into the topsy-turvy world of adolescence. It's almost as if it happens overnight: You wake up one morning and everything seems different - your body, your parents, your neighborhood, your biology lab partner. The things that were once a source of comfort and ease have become jagged with questions, doubt and new possibilities. Faced with all that, 15-year-old Xiomara ("see oh MAH ra") is lost. Although she still inhabits the same body, the same pious Dominican family and the same Harlem neighborhood, nothing is the same. Her body now "takes up more room" than her voice and has become a target for relentless catcalls from boys and insults from girls. Her once adored mother has become a constant source of rules and disapproval, and the church that was once a place of joy now feels like a house that is "no longer one I want to rent." Xiomara struggles to find a voice in this strange new world and resorts to using her fists instead of words. But, in the safety of her notebook, Xiomara finds refuge in poetry. To grab my notebook, and write, and write, and write all the things I wish I could have said. Make poems from the sharp feelings inside, that feel like they could carve me wide open Although reluctant to share her poetry at first, Xiomara finds a kind and open ear in her lab partner turned boyfriend, Aman, who shows her the joy and satisfaction of being truly heard. At the urging of her English teacher, Xiomara joins her school's slam poetry club, where she discovers the enormous power of her voice, both on and off the stage. Somehow, Acevedo's powerful free verse manages to stay contained within the book's covers. The force and intensity behind her words practically pushes them off the page, resulting in a verse novel that is felt as much as it is heard. This is a book from the heart, and for the heart. I wouldn't be surprised if I put my ear to its cover and found it had a heartbeat all its own. JABBERWALKING (Candlewick, 144 pp., $22.99; ages 10 and up) IS a bursting, bubbling, brain-bending adventure into poetry by the former poet laureate Juan Felipe Herrera. Inspired by Lewis Carroll's nonsense poem "Jabberwocky," Herrera grabs readers and would-be poets by both hands and races them into his wild, word-flinging world of Jabberwalking: "That is, write & walk & write & walk nonstop." The poem you are writing "does not want to know where it is going or even what it is saying," so you just "Scribble what you see / Scribble what you hear / Scribble out the electric Jabber worms crawling out of your head & eyes." In Herrera's world, poetry is not meant to be precious and tidy. There is no talk of syllables or rhymes. "A jabber poem is a fast poem ... a wild poem. An unkempt, messy, dirty poem," he explains. It's meant to "BE FREE (wherever it lands) so it can loosen up your Mind-Brains so you can see things / you have not seen before." Interspersed with fun but useful techniques to turn your "burbles" into "Jabber poems," "Jabberwalking" is a riotous explosion of a how-to book. Herrera flings open the door, inviting even the most reluctant poets to join him. IN THE 95 POEMS in VOICES IN THE AIR: Poems for Listeners (Greenwillow/HarperCollins, 208 pp., $17.99; ages 13 and up), Naomi Shihab Nye reminds our "obsessively tuned in" culture of the magic, power and necessity of "quiet inspiration." She reminds us that the more "connected" we've become, the more disconnected we actually are: "With so much vying for our attention," she asks, "how do we listen better?" Inspired and guided by the voices that surround her (voices from the past, the present and even the peonies), Nye's free verse tells of the wisdom, solace and beauty she has found and urges readers to join her, to listen with her, to create space to make sense of their experiences in an often difficult world. Lift those eyes. Take a look at the sea to your right, buildings full of mysteries, schools crackling with joy, open porches watch the world whirl by, all we are given without having to own ... Hope is the only drink you need to be drinking-jingle, jingle, step right up. While Nye's message is clear, it is never heavy-handed. The poems are loosely connected but just as powerful individually. Whether dealing with the mundane (a coffee cup) or the devastating (a girl shot by a stray bullet), Nye displays a palpable, unwavering empathy and hope for a better world. Although it's intended for teenagers, "Voices in the Air" speaks to adults, too - any, that is, who are willing to slow down and listen. JULIE fogliano is the author of the poetry collection "When Green Becomes Tomatoes." Her picture book "A House That Once Was," illustrated by Lane Smith, will be published in May.
Copyright (c) The New York Times Company [April 22, 2018]
Review by Booklist Review
*Starred Review* It's the end of the school year in 1988, and Charlie Bell is flattened by the death of his father. Charlie tries to hide in the pages of his comic book collection, much to his mother's despair. Finally she ships him off to stay with his grandparents for the summer. At first it's just a fresh form of misery, as Charlie's acidic grandfather goads him into physical activity in the stifling heat. Then his cousin Roxie coaxes him onto the basketball court. It's the combination of family, friends, and mad new skills that finally help Charlie begin to rebound from his father's death. Charlie Bell is the father of twins Jordan and Josh Bell, stars of Alexander's Newbery Medal-winning novel Crossover (2014). Fans of Crossover will remember that Chuck Da Man Bell played professional basketball, and they'll be intrigued by his initial resistance to learning the game. But this is an Alexander production, so the plot, as rich and satisfying as it is, is outdazzled by the brilliance of wordplay and syntax. There is a rhythm to each page, whether it's the snappy give-and-take of dialogue, the throbbing of Charlie's bottomless melancholy, or the rushing excitement of a basketball game. In addition, comics-style illustrations by Emmy-winning artist Anyabwile bring Charlie's fantasies of basketball glory to life. Librarians who delighted at Crossover's popularity will be thrilled with this pitch-perfect follow-up. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Alexander is unstoppable, and his fans will be too. Have extra copies at the ready.--Colson, Diane Copyright 2018 Booklist
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by School Library Journal Review
Gr 3-7-After losing his father to a heart attack, Chuck Bell is having a hard time coming to terms with his loss. When he and his mom have a big argument, she sends him to live with his grandparents, whom he barely knows, for the summer. Grandpa is a little old school, but has a good heart. Grandma is the peacemaker. Narrator Ron Butler brings Chuck's world to life with his unique intonations and narrative pacing. He easily navigates the rhythm of the verse and helps listeners relate to Chuck. The characters are well developed, interesting, and realistic. The non-rhyming verse is catchy and engaging. VERDICT Fans of realistic fiction, family stories, and sports will enjoy listening to this audiobook. Recommended for any library collection.-Kira Moody, Salt Lake County Library Services © Copyright 2019. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Horn Book Review
In this prequel to Alexanders Newbery Medalwinning The Crossover (rev. 5/14), its the summer of 1988, and twelve-year-old Charlie Bell would rather roller-skate with his two best friends or escape into the pages of his beloved Fantastic Four comics than confront the hole in his life created by the sudden death of his father. While spending the summer with his grandparents outside of Washington, DC, Charlie makes mistakes, rediscovers his extended family, and finds solace on the basketball court. Readers of The Crossover will be instantly drawn in to this origin story of protagonists Josh and JBs father, Chuck Da Man Bell. A story filled with preteen angst, peer pressure, realistic family dynamics, and first romance is elevated to uncommon heights by a visceral exploration of grief and a search for confidence that pays off in spectacular ways. The narrative is propelled by the staccato rhythmic poetry with which readers of Alexanders previous middle-grade books are familiar. The poetry shines, especially when it brings readers into Charlies inner narrative: Sometimes, I wish / I were a superhero / so I could fight back / against all the / doom / and the gloom / thats trying / to destroy / me. Anyabwiles occasional full-page or double-page-spread comics explode off the page, providing paneled visualizations for many of the energetic poems featuring fast-paced basketball action. A coda set thirty years later written by Chuck to his twin sons Josh and JB is a poignant and eloquent summation of the themes and events of this excellent novel. eric carpenter (c) Copyright 2018. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review
In this prequel to Newbery Award-winning The Crossover (2014), Alexander revisits previous themes and formats while exploring new ones.For Charlie Bell, the future father of The Crossover's Jordan and Josh, his father's death alters his relationship with his mother and causes him to avoid what reminds him of his dad. At first, he's just withdrawn, but after he steals from a neighbor, his mother packs a reluctant Charlie off to his grandparents near Washington, D.C., for the summer. His grandfather works part-time at a Boys and Girls Club where his cousin Roxie is a star basketball player. Despite his protests, she draws him into the game. His time with his grandparents deepens Charlie's understanding of his father, and he begins to heal. "I feel / a little more normal, / like maybe he's still here, / in a / as long as I remember him / he's still right here / in my heart / kind of way." Once again, Alexander has given readers an African-American protagonist to cheer. He is surrounded by a strong supporting cast, especially two brilliant female characters, his friend CJ and his cousin Roxie, as well as his feisty and wise granddaddy. Music and cultural references from the late 1980s add authenticity. The novel in verse is enhanced by Anyabwile's art, which reinforces Charlie's love for comics.An eminently satisfying story of family, recovery, and growing into manhood. (Historical verse fiction. 10-12) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.