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A child's garden of verses: four titles that introduce young readers to poetry's vitality.

Black Is Brown Is Tan

by Arnold Adoff Pictures by Emily Arnold McCully Amistad/HarperCollins, January 2004 $5.99, ISBN 0-064-43644-6 Ages 4-8

A beautifully written poem first published in 1973, this story was the first depiction of an interracial family in children's book publishing. McCully has re-illustrated this classic about an African American wife, a white father and their two children, with loving aunts, uncles and grandparents from both sides. While each verse conveys a consciousness of color, the stronger message is one of family unity.

Children from interracial backgrounds will appreciate leading about a family like their own because they rarely do; others will become aware of other family realities. The

beauty of the story is the simplicity and normalcy of the family: "This is the way it is lot us this is the way we are"

--Reviewed by Suzanne Rust

A Nest Full of Stars

Poems by James Berry with pictures by Ashley Bryan Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins, March 2004 $15.99, ISBN 0-060-52747-1 Ages 5 and up

Growing up in the 1930s, Jamaican poet James Berry had no access to images of his own people. He was in his twenties and living in London when he began to write. A Nest Full of Slats is a rich compilation of his work, some of them in a rich dialect, the voice caught perfectly in time: "Bowl ball, man. Bowl yu unplayable: mek me hit it, man-bash Englan stuck in-a sun face."

Ashley Bryan captures the play and the beauty of his Caribbean roots in Antigua with drawings and woodcut impressions that evoke both collaborators' African heritage. Adults will enjoy this collection as much as youngsters.

--Reviewed by Elise Virginia Ward

Keesha's House

by Helen Frost Frances Foster Books/Farrar, Straus & Giroux April 2003 $16.00, ISBN 0-374-34064-1 Ages 11-16

"You wanna know, for real, what keeps me alive in here?/ ... They think I stay alive just 'cause they make me./ ... Instead of sleepin' off" the hours and days, I find some corner of my mind to keep alive ... / ..." They give us two sheets/of paper, once a week, for letters, and I treat them like new shoes/ ... I write things down to keep my inside sell" alive (From "My Inside Self")

Helen Frost uses traditional poetic forms, sestina and sonnet, to speak for her students teenagers whose lives have been touched by violence and instability. They live in group homes, juvenile detention centers and foster care families.

Their stories are poignant and compelling, and Frost has captured the essence of what it means to come of age in an imperfect world. Reading these poems found me wishing I could have read some of the students' own work as well. Frost has listened and she has heard.


In the Land of Words: New and Selected Poems

by Eloise Greenfield, Illustrations by Jan Spivey Gilchrist Amistad/HarperCollins, January 2004 $16.99, ISBN 0-060-28993-7 Ages 4-8

"A minute ago, Mama tried to tease;/'John, come look! A dancing cheese!'/I didn't laugh, I didn't look./My head is buried ill my book.'

In a poem called "I Don't Care" award-winning poet and children's author Eloise Greenfield describes the wonderment of children who, having learned to read, have found a fabulous new world to explore: the "land of words."

This vibrantly illustrated sampler is Greenfield's answer to children who ask her where her words come from, and she prefaces many poems with just such explanations. This valuable information about the creative process will enhance the enjoyment of "The New Baby Poem," "Nathaniel's Rap," "Making Friends," and "Way Down hi the Music"

The collection provides an excellent introduction to poetry for young people who are just beginning to read on their own with, per haps, just a bit of help with the explanations. Jan Spivey Gilchrist's artwork is a delight.

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Publication:Black Issues Book Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 1, 2004
Previous Article:Beyond the village: how black children widen their sense of the world through reading other voices from the global spectrum.
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