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Featured Books!


Poetry Speaks to Children, edited by by ELise Paschen and Dominique Raccah.

Grade 3-8–A fine, basic collection. Approximately half of the 97 selections are read or performed on the accompanying CD. The book provides a mix of adult writers (Rita Dove, Seamus Heaney, and Billy Collins, among others) and those whose work is specifically for children, such as X. J. Kennedy and Mary Ann Hoberman. Topics include childhood, animals, nonsense poems, and humor (including C. K. Williams's Gas, which dwells on the fact that FARTING IS FORBIDDEN!). The three illustrators have captured the different tones of the selections, from a comic portrait of the Jabberwock slayer wearing a colander and wielding a plunger and the wailing children in William Stafford's First Grade, to the moving paintings of a girl with flowers echoing the natural images of James Berry's Okay, Brown Girl, Okay. The CD gives children the opportunity to hear several of the poets, such as Robert Frost reading Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening and Langston Hughes reading The Negro Speaks of Rivers. They hear a variety of accents and dialects–an Irish lilt, New England inflections, or James Berry's lilting Jamaican-British voice. Readers of Roald Dahl's books will enjoy hearing him read The Dentist and the Crocodile, and fans of The Lord of the Rings books and movies will appreciate hearing Tolkien read Frodo's Song in Bree. Joy Harjo frames her Eagle Poem with a haunting vocalization that echoes its serious tone. Review from School Library Journal

Hip-Hop Speaks to Children: A Celebration of Poetry with a Beat, edited by Nikki Giovanni

Grade 4–8—This anthology highlights the use of rhythm and vernacular in hip-hop, rap, and African-American poetry. The 51 pieces—which also include a passage from Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech—use gospel rhythms, "hambone" rhythms (which Giovanni explains in her informative introduction), jazz and blues rhythms, and language from the fields and the city streets. Artists range from Langston Hughes to Kanye West, from Eloise Greenfield to Queen Latifah. Much of the subject matter focuses on hope, self-esteem, respect for the past, and determination to make a better future. A few selections are more playful, like an excerpt from "Principal's Office" by Young MC. The accompanying CD enables readers to hear many of the pieces spoken or performed by the artists. Meanwhile, a team of five illustrators provides colorful, lively pictures that add atmosphere and personality (without a lot of depth, however). This volume is much denser than it first appears, and will provide classroom teachers with a substantial amount of material. The fact that an important historical writer like James Weldon Johnson appears in the same book as contemporary musician Lauryn Hill may help some kids see the older writers with a fresh eye, and may also introduce today's artists to teachers and librarians. Granted, not all of the rap and/or hip-hop verses have the concise nature of what has been considered "real" poetry, and, in this context, some of them work better in audio than on the printed page. Still, this is an interesting, worthwhile collection. Review by School Library Journal