Reviewed by Gwen Hart
Add poetry reading and writing to your summer easily with Tania Runyan's How to Write a Poem (T.S. Poetry Press). Runyan's accessible guide uses the stanzas from Billy Collin's popular poem "Introduction to Poetry" as a framework for introducing the key components of poetry: imagery, sound, line breaks, discovery, mystery, and revision. This is a fresh, fun approach for aspiring poets.
As the title suggests, this book focuses on writing poetry--with good examples from a variety of poets along the way. You may find yourself googling a few of these names to read more of their work--a great way to discover a new favorite poet!
Runyan's chapters are bite-sized (around seven pages each), perfect for busy people who want to add a little poetry to their lives. Each chapter contains a "Try It Out" exercise that allows you to apply what you've learned in the chapter to concrete examples (e.g., turning flat travel brochure language--an extravaganza of natural wonders!--into engaging imagery). Runyan ends each chapter with a "Your Turn" poetry prompt to inspire you to create your own poems.
In one of the most effective aspects of the book, Runyan takes readers through multiple drafts of her poem "Loch Ness Sculpture, Wyoming." Watching Runyan's poem evolve across the chapters shows how important each element of poetry is to a final draft.
The book concludes with a mini anthology of twenty-five poems, each with an accompanying prompt. The poems are divided into categories that compliment the earlier chapters. The anthology also illustrates by example how you can take a poem you love and turn it into a prompt to inspire your own poem.
If there is a downside to this book, it is that it cannot cover some of the more intricate aspects of poetry--but that is not its purpose. Runyan provides a solid foundation here that poets can build on, a jumping-off point perfect for the summer poetry explorer.
Review by Abigail Fellin
Issues 14 year olds face: social clichés at school, homework assignments and grades, sports, trying to figure out where they belong in the world.
Issues 14 year old Junior has to face: social clichés at school, racism, the belief he will never do anything, being susceptible to seizures, poverty, a stutter, having the reservation turn its back on him, alcoholism, and trying to figure out where he belongs in the world.
Alexie approaches the typical coming-of-age story line with a unique perspective: a poor Native American who lives in an alcoholic community. I’m not sure how many YA books I have come across that are from the perspective of a young boy growing up on a reservation. While this book has been criticized for reinforcing stereotypes, it still offers one view of this experience.
Based on his own life events, Sherman Alexie tackles tough topics in his novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Junior has grown up on the Spokane Indian Reservation where poverty and alcoholism are norms. Not wanting to fall into the same fate his parents have, Junior decides to transfer to the all-white school, Reardan, 22 miles away. Here he is faced with racism in a school where the only other Native American is the school mascot.
While the novel has been banned in some school districts for mentions of masturbation and boners, there is still much to be learned from it. Junior allows adolescents and adults alike see a new outlook on life and forces readers to confront their own prejudices or lack of knowledge on reservation life. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian has relatable struggles, powerful messages, and arguably a good role model for readers to look up to. While some of these messages and references to political and social injustices may be lost on younger audiences (10-12 years old), I find the novel appropriate for middle school readers.
Sherman Alexie’s novel can be found almost anywhere books are sold.
Review by Abigail Fellin
“Do you know that stat? It’s something like black people are six times as likely to have no weapons on them when they’re killed by cops.”
Some books punch you in the stomach with the power of their lines. This is one of those books. Focused on the story of a young, black male named Rashad who was beaten by police outside a local convenience store, All-American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely tackles the relevant and pressing issue of racial inequalities and police brutality in the United States.
Rashad is buying a bag of chips at a local convenience store after finishing up with ROTC when a lady trips over him and he is accused of stealing. The police officer in the store uses what some would consider unnecessary force to arrest him, resulting in a hospital stay. Quinn is standing outside and watched it all happen. The rest of the novel takes place over the next week as both Rashad and Quinn struggle to understand what happened, and their place in the issue.
Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely work well together to show two different perspectives of the American experience. By raising challenging questions on issues of race and responsibility, these authors force readers to think deeply about their identity and what they consider to be the All-American experience.
With controversial topics being the center of this book, it can be a challenging read. Forcing some readers to come face to face with their own prejudices, forcing others to relive tragic moments, and bringing up painful emotions for almost everyone, this book holds the potential to change lives.