Grow is a novel in verse. Twelve-year-old Katie tells the story of the summer she helped Berneetha start a garden in their urban community. The poems describe how they cleaned up a vacant lot, how they planted their garden, how they got other members of the community involved and how friendships developed over the summer. It is a beautiful story not just about Katie and Berneetha, but about Harlan. Harlan is a young boy with an abusive father who finds his place in the garden with Katie and Berneetha. It is also the story of how the community came together to create a green space in the middle of the concrete jungle.
Free verse poetry is used to record the reactions of various students, fellow teachers and community members to the murder of one of the teachers at Tower High School. Eventually, the killer is revealed.
Although the book was written in 1996, the subject of campus killings couldn’t be more relevant. Glenn’s characters are rather stereotypical, but at the least they represent a cross-section of a typical urban high school. No one is perfect, and this point is well made. Particularly interesting is a side-by-side comparison of reactions from twins- opposing views offered in a nearly identical manner. The murderer, however, is a mashup of traits and activities society enjoys associating with violent behavior. I’m surprised tattoos weren’t involved. Overall, an interesting read.
A family is attacked in their home by a drug crazed madman. They all survive, even though the dad has a heart attack during the attack, but they are not the same. Mom and dad see the attack as a wake up call and focus more on each other. The three kids do not do so well. Mimi, the oldest, is going through a divorce and she shuts down. She spends her days in front of the tv. Jeremy, who hid in the basement during the attack, becomes withdrawn and begins stalking a girl from school. Fifteen year old Paulie starts dating a college stoner and sneaking out of the house. She has nightmares and is now scared of the dark. Their stories are told in alternating poems from Jeremy and Paulie.
This was a story about a family dealing with tragedy. Instead of bringing them together it splintered them into separate beings. Each went their own way and retreated from life. It is a tragic story, but beautifully told. I think the free verse style really works here. The sparse language really drives home the emotions of Jeremy and Paulie.
I fell in love with poet David Lee the very first time I read him! The people he talks about in his poetry are all people I have known in my lifetime at one time or another. He uses the vernacular of the people of his region which makes his writing all the more interesting and humorous. If you’ve never read David Lee I highly recommend him. If nothing else please check out his poem “Pain” on page 266. It really hits home!
Addie is tall, loud, outspoken and socially conscious. This does not make her popular. In fact, her tendency to always say what she thinks makes her decidedly unpopular. But Addie has a great supportive family and group of friends. She is dating a popular boy, but they keep breaking up and getting back together. This book covers the trials and tribulations and triumphs of Addie’s seventh grade year. The story is told through a variety of poems in different styles each depicting a different moment in the life of Addie.
Addie is an interesting girl and very realistic and the poems really work for telling her story. Addie seems like your average middle school girl, maybe a little more aware of what is happening in the world and a little more outspoken than most, but still your average girl going through what all middle school girls go through. I really enjoyed the sections on her grandma; they were fun and touching. I think Addie is a girl lots of girls will enjoy reading about.
Ann Turner has written a poetic narrative about a summer in her childhood. This touching & horrifying look at a summer filled with terror not joy, as Ann is molested by an older boy in the neighborhood. Fear of being hurt by the boy she kept her secret until her mother got it out of her. Not only did Ann have to learn to swim that summer, she had to learn to trust again.
When I think of Jewel, recording artist immediately comes to mind. Writing most of her own music, it seems like a natural transition into poetry. A Night Without Armor explores Jewel’s personal life, such as, love, family betrayal, divorce and living in Alaska. Like her music, Jewel has complied a thoughtful and entertaining book of poems.