Myers, W. D., Myers, C., Williams, J., & Thomas, V. (2019). Jazz. (audiobook) Solon, OH: Findaway World, LLC. ISBN# 9780823421732
From bebop to free, and cool to fusion, Jazz guides the listener through a wide landscape of jazz music through the ages. With an introduction that gives the reader background on the art form and an afterward that includes a glossary of important terms, the listener will experience this medium in both richness and depth.
Singers James D-Train Williams and Vaneese Thomas embark on a tour of jazz music in Walter Dean Myers’ collection of poems. Each entry is set to music and spoken or sung by Williams and Thomas. Every poem is matched perfectly with its musical counterpart. Some tunes are fast and fevered, while others are slow and smooth, but they all contribute a vital element of the jazz medium in a way that invokes a stroll through the French Quarter at midday or a walk through the streets of Harlem at midnight. The rhythm and accompanying music are vibrant, lively, and oftentimes surprising, like jazz itself. Phrases like “drumming in tongues” juxtapose words in an unexpected fashion that conjures images of Pentecost and dance in a way that is culturally expressive, celebratory, and exciting. Some of the selections demonstrate fun and dramatic use of language like the repetition of refrains such as “start with rhythm, start with the heart” in Jazz. Others, use rhyme scheme and anaphora delivered through entertaining and audacious text like
“Heard a sad song, swung it into joy”
“Heard a bad tune spank it like a naughty boy.”
As mentioned before, the audiobook includes an introduction that provides extensive information on jazz as well as a historical synopsis of the way this music genre evolved and influenced the world across the decades. The introduction also discusses how jazz was essentially a melding of the African pentatonic scale and European music. However, the medium itself was born and bred in United States, and is as American as apple pie and baseball.
Overall, this collection is a celebration of life. Even the somber funeral dirge, “Goodbye Bob Johnson,” ends with joyous declarations and an upbeat tempo. Myers’ work is meant to spotlight its namesake’s musical age and African American culture in all its beauty, variety, effervescence and style. The language and music are emotionally uplifting and will pique the enthusiasm of poetry and music aficionados of all ages.
from Kirkus Reviews — “A cycle of 15 poems and vivid, expressive paintings celebrate that most American genre of music: jazz.”
from Publisher’s Weekly — “The father-and-son team behind Blues Journey creates a scintillating paean to jazz.”
Coretta Scott King Award Honor, ALA Notable Children’s Book, Publisher’s Weekly 100 Best Books of the Year, Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, Odyssey Award for Excellence in Audiobook Production
Engle, M. (2017). The firefly letters: A suffragette’s journey to cuba. Turtleback Books. Retrieved 2017. ISBN# 9780805090826
The Firefly Letters is the story of three women: Frederika, Elena, and Cecilia. The narrative is told through the alternating perspectives of these three characters, two of whom are based on real people. The book uses free style poetry to share the lives of Frederika — a Swedish wanderer, Cecilia — a pregnant slave girl, and Elena — a young patrician who is forced to remain indoors, embroidering, while she watches others have fun outside. In the end, she uses the profits from selling her embroidery to buy Elena’s baby’s freedom.
Engle’s use of alternating free verse poems allows for an elongated rhythm that saunters rather than sprints. This enhances the theme of tireless work and seeming stagnation when discussing the plight of slaves and the limitations imposed on women, particularly during the 1800s. Rhyme isn’t present, save the occasional half rhyme, creating a sense of irregularity, beauty, and occasional unexpected dissonance which jars the reader’s attention back to the cruelty of slavery and its effects on the people of Cuba and across the world. One of the book’s strongest points is its use of evocative language throughout the narrative. Stanzas such as:
that will be revealed
by the lovely sun
as well as the dangerous
“This beautiful island
with its hideous ways,”
pitts opposing forces such as light and dark, beauty and horror in a way that reveals the underlying suffering that can thrive in a lush paradise. Despite it’s dark theme, the book reveals beautiful and playful images like when a trail of ants make off with multicolored wedding petals “balancing them like colorful umbrellas,” or when the ever present fireflies illuminate the sky like tiny stars and shimmer through the waves of women’s hair pulsating on and off, on and off. The entire narrative works as a testament to an unspoken connection among those who suffer, particularly women, and the ways they reach across cultural and socioeconomic barriers to help one another. Emotionally, The Firefly Letters works as an intricate weaving of small moments, both tender and raw, that serve to reassure the reader of the power of human kindness in unexpected places and unconventional ways.
from Kirkus Reviews –“Three women, their lives circumscribed by their societies’ expectations, come together in Cuba in 1851.”
from Publisher’s Weekly — “Engle spins her latest historical novel-in-verse from the actual diaries of a 19th-century suffragette, Fredrika Bremer, who jettisoned her privileged existence in Sweden to travel and take notes on the plight of the poor.”
A Pura Belpré Honor Book, an American Library Association Notable Children’s Book, and
a Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year.
Florian, D. (2007). Comets, Stars, the Moon, and Mars. Orlando, FL: Harcourt. 9780152053727
Douglas Florian’s poetry chapter book is a space odyssey. From planets and starts to comets and black holes, Comets, Stars, the Moon, and Mars displays the many celestial bodies in the universe and their wonder for the reader to enjoy. The book also includes a “Galactic Glossary” of terms that will engage any child reader.
Florian uses a combination of various types of rhythm and meter in his ode to the universe. Iambic tetrameter and pentameter dominate this landscape where playful and simplistic watercolor and mixed media images of children share center stage with planets and stars. Comets and galaxies also rift through the pages in an exciting course that flows along with the imaginative poetry. The riveting text and imagery is charged with such dynamism that it has an emotionally uplifting effect. It is enough to transport any adult back to their childhood. Although this is a playful book, Florian does not bring down the science and its often complex terminology. With terms such as “Arcturus” and “Canopus,” children will learn a great deal about the universe and galaxies. At times, the author plays with sound and sight. In the first word of the phrase “e m p t y space,” Florian adds spaces between each letter in the word “empty,” causing the reader to elongate each phoneme as she imagines what it would be like to travel through the inky blackness of this dark, enigmatic, farscape. The glossary of terms is extensive and its definitions are detailed, which serve to pique children’s curiosity and knowledge of space and beyond. This book flows both visually and textually in a way that is rich, exuberant, and dynamic. It is simply a delight!
— From Kirkus Reviews “The verse is characteristically playful, wrapping itself around astronomical facts with ease.”
— From The New York Times “In space, no one can hear you giggle.”
A Junior Library Guild Selection