08. April 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Brian, Poetry

Singer by Calvin Miller, read by Brian, on 04/05/2013

Simply put, Calvin Miller has written an allegorical poem telling the life of Jesus Christ.  This book will stand the test of time and will be used over again in churches and schools.  I’ve read the poem many times and never tire of it.

 

singer

08. April 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Janet, Poetry

The Old Dog Barks Backwards by Ogden Nash, read by Janet, on 04/07/2013

The Old Dog Barks BackwardsOgden Nash definitely likes the sound of words.  Often I did not understand the words he used and was not sure if they were from another language or make up by him.  Many words were evidently made up by the author for sound and to fit the subject.  He has had a wide variety of interesting jobs, giving him a rich, varied outlook on many things.  This background enhances the richness of these delightful verses.  Titles range from “Bet You a Nickel My Unhappiness Can Lick Your Unhappiness” to “Coefficients of Expansion” – humorous and thought-provoking.

06. April 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Fiction, Poetry, Teen Books

My Book of Life by Angel by Martine Leavitt, read by Angie, on 04/05/2013

Angel was an ordinary girl who just happened to like stealing shoes. Not pairs of shoes just the one shoe on display. One day she is caught by Call. He doesn’t turn her in but he introduces her to “candy” and once she is hooked he takes her in. Then he makes her prove her love to him by being nice to his friends, then he sends her to the streets to earn money. Angel has been working her corner for a while now, but her friend Serena goes missing and Angel knows she didn’t run away because she left her money with Angel. Other girls have gone missing too. Angel decides to quit the candy. Then Call brings home Melli and tells Angel she has to teach Melli the ropes. But Melli is just eleven, a little girl, and Angel doesn’t want her to experience what she has. So she must earn enough for two in order to save Melli. She is determined to get out, but Call threatens to hurt her brother Jeremy.

This was a powerful book. The poetry is a perfect format for this story. Angel’s voice comes through so clearly with all her pain and determination. It is a haunting story that will leave you with questions, and it will keep you thinking about it for a long time.

04. April 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Poetry, Teen Books

Ringside, 1925: Views from the Scopes Trial by Jennifer Fisher Bryant, read by Angie, on 04/03/2013

The Scopes Trial in Dayton, Tennessee was a battle over evolution. Specifically, John Scopes, a teacher at the high school taught a class on evolution that violated the State’s Butler Act prohibiting such acts. Scopes was put on trial and it quickly became a circus. Clarence Darrow defended Scopes and William Jennings Bryan was the lawyer for the prosecution. The trial made headlines around the world. Ringside is told from the perspective of several people affected by the trial. Most are citizens of Dayton, ranging from a high school student to the sheriff to local men and women.

This was a fascinating book about a fascinating historical incident. I had heard about the Scopes Trial, but really didn’t know any details. These verses clearly show how the trial came to be, what happened during the trial, what the people thought and how ridiculous it all was. The trial is like no trial we know of today. The judge seemed to have absolute power and ruled the courtroom how he wanted. The jury was pretty much ineffective and not allowed to see evidence or hear testimony. they really had no choice but to declare a guilty verdict. It was fascinating!

04. April 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Janet, Poetry

Nights with Armour, Lighthearted Light Verse by Armour, Richard, read by Janet, on 04/03/2013

Nights with ArmourThis is a short, simple book of poetry “to take to bed with you”.  The poems are humorous and fun reading, covering many areas of life.  One that fits me as I age is “Lines on Lines:

The older I get, the less I pine for

Things that I have to stand in line for.”

02. April 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Poetry

Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie by Julie Sternberg, Matthew Cordell (Illustrator), read by Angie, on 04/01/2013

Eleanor is having a very bad summer. Her babysitter, Bibi, has moved away. Her parents force her to get another babysitter, Natalie. Natalie is not Bibi, but she understands what Eleanor is going through. By the end of the summer, Eleanor has accepted Natalie and had a letter from Bibi so things are looking up.

This is a fun little book. I really enjoyed Eleanor’s story. The verse works really well and definitely translates what Eleanor is going through. I also enjoyed the illustrations. They are fun and silly.

02. April 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Poetry

The Tofu Quilt by Ching Yeung Russell, read by Angie, on 04/01/2013

Yeung Ying is a young Chinese girl living in Hong Kong in the 1960s. She likes to write stories and hates doing math. She writes letters for her family members, many of whom can’t write. She dreams of being a writer someday. This collection of poems tells her story as she discovers who she wants to be and what she wants to do with her life. I think they really invoke her love of her family and her desire to be someone someday. This collection is short and sweet and easy to read. Lovely novel in verse.

27. March 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Pamela, Poetry · Tags:

Hidden by Helen Frost , read by Pamela, on 03/01/2013

When fourteen-year-olds Wren and Darra meet at a Michigan summer camp, both are overwhelmed by memories from six years earlier when Darra’s father stole a car, unaware that Wren was hiding in the back.  A verse novel, with hidden messages contained within the writing.hidden.

Don’t let the cover fool you,this is Not a book about fairies or mermaids, but about straight-up life.  It is a mystery with multiple layers.

13. March 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Melody, Poetry, Teen Books · Tags:

October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard by Leslea Newman, read by Melody, on 03/12/2013

October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard is a heartbreaking poetry collection from noted writer and LGBT activist Leslea Newman about the 1998 murder of twenty year old Matthew Shepard.  Shepard was abducted from a bar in Laramie, Wyoming, beaten and robbed, tied to a fence where he bled and cried for eighteen hours until a passing biker found him, and died after laying in a coma for five days.  Shepard was targeted by the two young men for being gay.  The poems are told from various points of view, the fence, a doe who laid beside him that night, his attackers, his family and friends. Absolutely beautiful poems about a horrendous hate crime.  Must read.

03. February 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Poetry · Tags:

Planet Middle School by Nikki Grimes, read by Angie, on 02/02/2013

Joy is a tomboy who loves playing basketball. She is best friends with KayLee and Jack. Everything is normal and fine until she starts middle school. Suddenly her body is betraying her; she gets boobs and her period. And she starts noticing boys! One boy in particular catches her eye, Santiago. Joy wants him to notice her so she starts changing to catch his attention. She tries makeup and heels and skirts, but nothing seems to make an impression. Jack and KayLee both warn her about changing for a boy, but it isn’t until she sees Santiago with a girl who looks just like she used to that she understands.

You could not pay me enough money to go through puberty again. I wasn’t a basketball star like Joy, but pretty much everything else she goes through I remember with horror. Middle school is a horrible time in your like, but Nikki Grimes captures it wonderfully in this novel in verse. the poems transport you back to those wonderful (horrible) years with your life was ruled by hormones and you had no idea what betrayal your body was going to bring on next.

21. December 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Leslie, Poetry, Teen Books

Hidden by Helen Frost, read by Leslie, on 11/13/2012

Hidden

When fourteen-year-olds Wren and Darra meet at a Michigan summer camp, both are overwhelmed by memories from six years earlier when Darra’s father stole a car, unaware that Wren was hiding in the back.

This book asks the question I’m sure some people think, what would happen if a child victim ran into someone who may have helped her.  And the person who helped wonders what would have happened if she hadn’t?  Both girls go through a process of denial, dislike, then a final revelation that as children, neither was in charge of what ultimately happened.  A quick read, intense and I enjoyed the different formats the author uses to distinguish the voice of each character throughout the book.

20. November 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: History, Poetry, Tammy

Native Guard by Natasha Trethewey , read by Tammy, on 11/10/2012

A beautiful collection of poems that paints word pictures so clearly that you can see the battlefield with the civil war soldiers and you can feel the fear and anger of the poet’s family dealing with prejudice in the south. This collection is not only a Pulitzer Prize winner but also by the current U.S. Poet Laurette.

19. November 2012 · 1 comment · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Poetry

May B. by Caroline Starr Rose , read by Angie, on 11/17/2012

May lives on the Kansas prairie with her family. In order to earn some extra money her family sends her to live with a neighbor for a few months. The Oblingers are newlyweds and the misses does not like life on the prairie. May keeps house for them and does chores. Everything is fine until the day Mrs. Oblinger runs off and Mr. Oblinger follows her. May is left alone in their sod house with little food or fuel and winter approaching. She has to rely on herself to survive.

This is a novel told in verse and that format works really well for May’s story. The sparse poems really help to invoke May’s sense of isolation and loneliness. The novel not only deals with her isolation on the prairie, but also her reading problems. May is very smart, but has dyslexia and has lots of problems reading. One of her teachers was very supportive, but her other does nothing but humiliate her. May wants to be a teacher but how can she if she can’t read.

May is a strong determined young lady who is in an impossible situation. Her story told in verse is engrossing and charming. I would definitely recommend this book to fans of verse and historical fiction.

16. September 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Classics, Fiction, Literary Fiction, Poetry, Tammy · Tags:

The Death of King Arthur: A New Verse Translation by Simon Armitage, read by Tammy, on 09/15/2012

A new translation of the alliterative poem written in Middle English around 1400 AD originally known as The Alliterative Morte Arthure. Simon Armitage who recently received acclaim for his translation of the classic alliterative poem, Sir Gawain and The Green Knight turns his talent to this classic. He follows King Arthur’s bloody conquests across Europe until his bloody fall, with many of his loyal knights, through a poignantly described burial scene. The language is still lyrical and moving in spite of being a translation.

24. August 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Poetry, Teen Books

Hidden by Helen Frost, read by Angie, on 08/24/2012

Wren was accidentally kidnapped when she was 8 years old. She hid in the back of the car when it was stolen. Then she hid in the garage for two days before she escaped. Darra’s dad was the kidnapper. Darra knew Wren was in the garage and helped her as much as she could. When Wren escaped Darra’s dad went to prison. Six years later the two girls end up in the same cabin at camp. Neither wants to acknowledge what happened but slowly they come to terms with it and with each other.

I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about this book. It is told in verse and that doesn’t always work. However, I ended up really loving this book. The two poetry styles work really well for the different narrators. And for the most part it doesn’t read like verse; it seems very narrative and I never felt like I was missing part of the story.

I was disappointed to learn that Darra’s chapters had a second story running through them. We only learn about this in the notes at the end of the book. I was frustrated that I then had to go back and reread all her parts to get this second story. I think the narrative would have been better served if this would have been included in an introduction instead of an epilogue. This second story adds to her narrative.

This is a beautifully told story and well worth the read even with the hidden story.

30. June 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Poetry

Last Laughs by J. Patrick Lewis, Jane Yolen , read by Angie, on 06/29/2012

Last Laughs is gruesome and macabre and truly wonderful. The book is full of short epitaph poems for animals who have met an untimely end. The pictures are awesome but gross. I don’t know if I will ever get the image of the newt or the horse out of my mind! It is very witty, but probably not suitable for all children. You should really know your audience to make sure they will not get upset by some of the images or poems.

15. April 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, Fiction, Melody, Poetry

Forgive Me, I Meant to Do It by Gail Levine, read by Melody, on 04/15/2012

Forgive Me, I Meant to Do ItVery funny collection of false apology poems with great illustrations.  My favorite:

This is Just to Say

While you were buying

doll dresses

I sanded off

your Barbie’s face

which

you constantly

patted

and praised

Forgive me

her beauty

was only

skin deep

 

02. April 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Kira, NonFiction, Poetry · Tags:

Black Pearls [sound recording]: the poetry of Maya Angelou by Angelou, Maya, read by Kira, on 03/30/2012

This audiobook contained about 20 of Angelou’s readings.  I found I had to find the little insert with the titles of the different readings, to help me make sense of the poem/reading.   There are some raw depictions of struggle and oppression.  I wondered about one of the quotes (paraphrased from memory) – My crime is that I lived to tell the tale – from the poem “My Guilt” , I think she means we are guilty/complicit when we come away from injustice committed unscathed, without having fought enough… I’m Not sure The picture on the cover shows a younger woman than what I’ve seen in the media, so presumably these poems were written/recorded at an earlier time in her life.

18. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Fiction, Melody, Poetry

Let America Be America Again by Langston Hughes, read by Melody, on 02/18/2012

Let America Be America Again is a beautiful edition of the classic Langston Hughes poem.

Let America be America again.

Let if be the dream it used to be.

Let it be the pioneer on the plain

Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me)

A timely and pertinent poem in our days of the 99% and rousing election speeches, I think it should be required reading for every citizen and perhaps be tattooed on those who use the chorus of “America” to rally us to war, to class and racial divides, and to hate and fear one another.  The wood cut illustrations are stark and moving, ideal for the poem, but I found the print to be difficult to read.  But even if you must find the poem online or in another anthology, please read it.

16. February 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Poetry · Tags:

Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai, read by Angie, on 02/16/2012

This novel written in verse tells the story of Ha and her family as they flee Saigon and come to America. It is a story of survival and struggle. It is beautifully written and the sparseness of the verse makes the story that much more poignant. In Saigon, Ha’s family listens to the bombs fall daily, they wait for a father’s return even though they fear he is gone forever. They are smart and capable people in Saigon. Then one day they decide to leave on a Navy ship as Saigon is falling to the Communists. They arrive in America and are sponsored by a family in Alabama. Life in America is not easy. They do not know the language and are considered dumb; they are teased and taunted by their peers. They had to leave everything they knew behind.

I think the fact that this book is written in verse makes it that much more powerful. I don’t think the story would have resonated as much if it was written in a traditional manner. Lai is able to convey every emotion and heartache of the family’s journey through the verse as well as their hope for their future. It is a powerful book on a powerful subject. This is a very fast read, but you really do want to take your time and pour over the language.