Wednesday, October 7, 2015


I Am the Book

Poems selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins
Illustrations by Yayo

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Hopkins, Lee Bennett. 2011. I Am the Book. Ill Yayo. New York: Holiday House. ISBN 978-0-8234-2119-0

Critical Analysis:
I Am the Book is a heartwarming collection of 13 poems selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins that all ages will enjoy hearing read aloud, again and again. The poems celebrate reading and are written by award winning authors such as, Naomi Shihab Nye, Jane Yolen, Karla Kuskin and Kristine O’Connell George.

I Am the Book includes a mix poems with rhyme, and some free verse. Although each poem stands alone, as a collection, they allow the reader to feel the moment when a reader is completely connected with the book. Readers will also connect with the poets, as writers and people, as Hopkins included a helpful and interesting section in the back of the book, “About the Poets,” a section that provides interesting information about each poet. This information would be helpful to share with those students in Texas, as a fellow Texan represented, Naomi Sihab Nye, who lives in San Antonio!

The illustrations, by Yayo, are bold and playful, connecting each poem with whimsical characters that have been “carried away” by the books being read.  The artwork, done in acrylics of blue, red and yellow, add another layer of meaning and intrigue by playing on the figurative language. For instance, as the tail of a whale is actually a book, and the text states, “A treasured tale, a magic world.” Another example of the clever illustrations found in I Am the Book is the poem A Poem Is, by Jane Yolen. The simile in the text states, “like bumper cars at a fair”, and pictured are instruments, made to look like rides at an amusement park.

Review Excerpt(s):
"Children will love reading this one out loud."-Nancy Molina
~Poetry for Children

"Fun for sharing with preschoolers, this will also spark discussion in grade-school writing and art classes. Notes about each poet are appended." 

~(Booklist-Hazel Rochman) --Booklist

~Read aloud while the children listen, then have the children draw what they envision.
~Have the students identify the figurative language, such as rhyme in a read aloud poem.

Inside Out & Back Again

by Thanhha Lai

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Lai, Thanhha. 2011. Inside Out & Back Again. New York: Harper Collins Children's Books. ISBN 978-0-06-196279-0

Critical Analysis:

No one would believe me

but at times

I would choose

wartime in Saigon

peacetime in Alabama

Lai captures the dreams and heartbreaks of Ha, a ten-year-old immigrant girl from Saigon, in a novel that is written in first person point of view, as a series of short free-verse poems, Inside Out & Back Again. The journey of Ha begins at Tet, and comes full circle one year later, concluding her journey back at Tet. In a fast, descriptive and touching manner, the reader of this novel learns about life in Vietnam, including traditions, clothing and the approaching Vietnam War. The challenges an immigrant faces as they try to begin a new life and hold onto the old ways are shared poetically, by Lai. New language, new foods, new customs and children all challenge Ha in her new life in Alabama.

Lai's writing is packed with words that create detailed images of Saigon before the war and emotions of the young girl as she crosses the ocean with her family, leaving her home in Saigon far behind. The author is able to share, in a beautiful, light-hearted way, a very deep and dark subject, and the fact that it was written in verse provides this opportunity. Lai, for example, reveals innocence lost as she tells us of Ha's wishes while in Saigon in the poem"Wishes I Keep to Myself", describing a young girl wanting to play as the boys do, outside, in the beginning of this novel. Then, later in Alabama, Ha expresses wishes of a different kind, expressing an awareness of pain and loss in the poem, "I Wish". Although the format is the same, even the topic, the shift in what the young girl wishes for opens a window for the reader to see the change happening within Ha. 

Inside Out & Back Again would be a wonderful read for readers ages 9-12.

Review Excerpt(s):

“Lai’s spare language captures the sensory disorientation of changing cultures as well as a refugee’s complex emotions and kaleidoscopic loyalties.” 
~The Horn Book

“In this free-verse narrative, Lai is sparing in her details, painting big pictures with few words and evoking abundant visuals.” 
~Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

~Read other Verse Novels such as Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse or Love That Dog by Sharon Creech
~Try this as a dramatic read aloud

Awards & Recognitions:
~A2011 National Award for Young People's Literature
~Newbery Honor

A Dime a Dozen 

by Nikki Grimes pictues by Angelo

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Grimes, Nikki. 1998. A Dime a Dozen. Ill Angelo. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers. ISBN 0-8037-2227-3

Critical Analysis:

Staying true to oneself and one's own dreams is the inspiring anthem Nikki Grimes shares in the verse novel, A Dime A Dozen. It is a beautiful story that is woven together through twenty-eight poems with powerful language and creative use of rhyme and rhythm.

The illustrations by Angelo, mirror the verse, as they are simple, yet expressive pencil drawings that capture the emotions of Grime's words. The themes of family, growing up, and following your dreams will speak to both older elementary students, young adults, and also those who dream of independence. In part one, for instance, from "Stroll", we follow our narrator as she says:

I set my own pace
'cause Spirit says
I'm headed places
that aren't marked
on my mother's 

Following her, still, to the the last lines, "Someday she'll be proud to daughter the writer."

Review Excerpt(s):
“This slim volume and its bittersweet entries will encourage readers to locate and acknowledge the poetry in their own lives and to give voice to their own experiences.”
~Kirkus Review

 "Written in the first-person voice...these 28 poems celebrate family, culture, writing, and the spirit of a creative, introspective child. They should be read in the order in which they are arranged to appreciate the power and overall loose plot...A quietly profound, heartfelt work.”
~School Library Journal

~Read other books by Nikki Grimes:
Meet Danitra Brown illustrated by Floyd Cooper
Hopscotch Love illustrated by Melodye Benson Rosales

From a Child's Heart illustrated by Brenda Joysmith
~Use as an introduction to an autobiography unit.

Awards & Recognitions:
~A Junior Library Guild Selection
~Bank Street College Children's Book of the Year

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