Originally published in: 2007
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.
Originally published in: 2017
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.
Originally published in: 2015
What it’s about: Poet E.E. Cummings.
What made me pick it up: I saw it online while searching for other books and once I learned who it was about I went and found it on the shelf and checked it out.
My favorite things: This book reads like a poem. It includes a lot of information about Cummings’ life and writing as well as a few of his poems. The illustrations are inventive and beautiful.
Who it’s great for: Children who can read a longer picture book or sit through one being read to them. Anyone who likes poetry, especially fans of Cummings. Those who appreciate whimsy.
Get a copy of this book on Amazon (affiliate link) or your local library.
Originally published in: 2006
What it’s about: Poems about the difficulty growing up biracial in Mississippi when anti-miscegenation laws still existed, interspersed with poems of grief about losing her mother, and poems that explore the roles of black soldiers during the Civil War.
What made me pick it up: I was putting up a new display in our book drop window when I found this gem of a return. I’m not going to lie, I picked it up because it was so slim. I held onto it because I haven’t read a collection of poems recently. And I finished it that night because these poems are that good.
My favorite things: This book may be brief but it is powerful. You can see why she won the Pulitzer Prize and was the US Poet Laureate. Haunting is the word I would choose to describe these poems. They are beautiful and honest and informative if you haven’t personally experienced these issues. I enjoy books like this so much that keep returning to mind long after I finish them.
Who it’s great for: Teens or adults. Anyone interested in being carried away to another emotional state or time in history. Readers looking for new poems.
Pick up a copy of this book at Amazon (affiliate link) or your local library.
What it’s about: A young Haitian girl named Serafina and her dream to be a doctor when she grows up despite all the challenges she faces.
What made me pick it up: This book was recommended to me by Goodreads after I rated another novel in verse.
My favorite things: The message of hope in this book is wonderful. Serafina is a very determined character. The author also gave a very honest portrait of the hardships of daily life in Haiti. I especially enjoyed the incredibly lyrical language.
Who it’s great for: Older kids. Teens. Adults. Anyone interested in the struggles of developing nations. People who want a quick read. Those who like poetry.
Originally published in: 2016
What it’s about: A teen boy has his first romantic interest while struggling to deal with bullies at school and his parents divorce.
What made me pick it up: I saw Kwame Alexander speak at the Virginia Library Association annual conference in October and hadn’t read any of his books. In one weekend I checked out and completed this and his earlier Newbery Medal-winning book The Crossover. Oh yeah, and the entire book is written in verse.
My favorite things: Alexander has an ability to really make books about sports feel like the sporting event. They just have a flow to them. I really appreciated the true depiction of a teenager – priorities confused, emotions confused, everything dramatic but not any more than would actually happen. I was also pleased to see support for mental health issues by adults surrounding the teen characters.
Who it’s great for: Teens. Adults. Anyone looking for a quick, fun read with realistic characters. Fans of soccer and unusual vocabulary words. People looking for something a little different.
Find this book on Amazon (affiliate link) or at your local library.