I’ve been wanting to venture back into the world of poetry. I used to read Lord Byron in high school for fun, but I confess that I couldn’t understand a word of it. I see a dedicated poetry section in my local bookstore, and I’ve been curious about what treasures I might find in there. It was recommended to me on FB to read A Little History of Poetry by John Carey, and while I wait on that to arrive from Amazon, I’m diving into children’s poetry and young adult age poetry books thanks to Candlewick Press. I look at three books today, with one being for young children, another for middle school kids, and finally, a book for the young adult generation. Despite my age difference to the demographic these books are aimed at, I still enjoyed each of them and I look forward to exploring more of this world.
What Are Little Girls Made Of? – Nursery Rhymes to Empower Young Feminists by Heanne Willis and Illustrated by Isabelle Follath
Remember how Bo Peep lost her sheep and Little Miss Muffet sat on her tuffet and was scared by a spider? Not any more. Bo Peep rescues her sheep and Miss Muffet lets the spider join her for her picnic.
What Are Little Girls Made Of? takes old nursery rhymes that are, quite frankly, out of date with the times and makes them more empowering for the children of today (and not just girls). Even as an adult I enjoyed reading these new renditions and seeing how much stronger they are without the stereotypes that plague the original rhymes.
The illustrations show boys in dresses, girls as pirates, and children with disabilities enjoying their time playing with their friends. It’s full of imagination and childlike fun. If my child was younger, this would be a staple on their bookshelf and read to them often.
Amber & Clay by Laura May Schlitz
Amber & Clay is a lyrical novel. Some parts are done in poetry and others are done in typical novel form. This title is listed as a middle-grade novel, but for me, the length seems more for young adults coming in at over 520 pages. The story follows two young characters, Rhaskos (clay) and Melisto (amber), and their friendship that crosses the boundaries of life and death and, along the way, class and gender.
Along with the words, we have beautiful illustrations that go along with the story. This story was a bit confusing for me, with it going back and forth, and it was much longer than any poetry book I’ve seen minus Lord Byron’s works. That didn’t stop me from getting into it, though, and learning to love the characters and the world they live in.
Somebody Give This Heart a Pen by Sophia Thakur
This is the young adult poetry book that touches the soul and affects you on a deeper level—I don’t care what your age is. Sophie is a young black woman, and she writes from the heart. The rhymes are easy to follow and understand. The movement of the poems flows nicely from one to another. In short, these poems have a heart.
My favorite poem that touched me the most was “I’m fine thanks, you? And other white lies.” It spoke to me in a way that none of the others did. It was 100% true in that when we ask someone how their day is going we don’t accept anything other than an “I’m fine. Thanks. How are you?” We don’t expect someone to go into a drawn-out speech about how rough their day has been or that their partner just left them and took the cat. We keep our mouths shut and simply say, “I’m fine.” Honestly, I hate it when someone asks how I’m doing in a casual, passing through the halls way because the environment doesn’t allow for truth but just a simple “Fine” and moving on. If you’re on the way to the bathroom and about to push the door open, you’re not going to answer someone saying, “Hey, Daks. How’s it going?” with a two-minute speech on how your day has really been going. You’re going to tell that little white lie and move on.
This book gets political with some poems about Black Lives Matter and what is going on at the Mexico border and separating families. Reading a news article about these important matters is one thing, but reading a poem from a young author makes you see it in an entirely different light. Her words speak to you, in my opinion, harder than an article in The New York Times.
There you have it: a book of poetry for any age and each with a strong story well worth your attention this National Poetry Month.
Disclaimer: GeekMom received review copies of these titles.