In Verse: New Titles for Tweens and Teens

A trio of recently published poetry titles evidence the power of poetry "to convey rich characterization, complex themes, and a reading experience that levels the field between struggling and skilled readers."

A trio of recently published titles—a memoir, a work of contemporary fiction, and a historical novel—offer timely reflections on identity and being true to oneself, while evidencing the power of poetry "to convey rich characterization, complex themes, and a reading experience that levels the field between struggling and skilled readers."

redstar ENGLE, Margarita. Soaring Earth: A Companion Memoir to Enchanted Air. 192p. S. & S./Atheneum. Feb. 2019. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781534429536.
Gr 7 Up–In this stirring companion to her acclaimed memoir Enchanted Air, the Young People’s Poet Laureate recounts the tumultuous late 60s and early 70s—a perfect parallel to her turbulent high school and college years. Using mostly free verse with smatterings of tanka and haiku, Engle shines a light on the uncertainty and restlessness of the time period—the Vietnam War; civil, women’s, and labor rights movements; the rise of hippie and drug culture; and more—with raw, painful, but always poignant honesty. The peace-loving young woman often found herself at odds with her parents, boyfriends, fellow students, and institutions, but she never lost touch with her roots. No matter how much time passed, at her core, Cuba and her family are knit into the fabric of her identity. The author’s evocative language, vivid imagery, and authentic portrayal will engage teens. Her bumpy and circuitous road filled with failures, homelessness, and eventual resolution and academic success will encourage young adults on their own paths. VERDICT An unforgettable peek into an important and relevant time period brought into perspective by a masterly poet. A must-have for every collection.–Shelley M. Diaz, BookOps: The New York Public Library and Brooklyn Public Library

redstar JAMES, Rory. Some Girls Bind. 200p. chart. Enslow. Feb. 2019. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781538382547; pap. $12.90. ISBN 9781538382530.
Gr 7 Up–James proves the power of the novel in verse as a vehicle to convey rich characterization, complex themes, and a reading experience that levels the field between struggling and skilled readers. Jamie is keeping a secret, even from her BFF Lev and their wider circle of sensitive and supportive friends. Uncertain, at first, of what draws her to binding her breasts, Jamie confides in her brother Steve, then works toward understanding and accepting a nonbinary gender identification and comes out to Lev and eventually to their parents and friends. James’s verse is fluid, and each chapter is a complete scene that builds Jamie’s story with compelling insight and empathy. Jamie’s friends each have their own issues, and Jamie is a sympathetic friend as well as a teen caught in the private drama of self-awareness that makes adolescence and identity construction frightening to so many. VERDICT Highly recommended for school and public libraries.–Francisca Goldsmith, Library Ronin, Worcester, MA

redstar WILSON, Kip. White Rose. 368p. bibliog. glossary. HMH/Versify. Apr. 2019. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781328594433.
Gr 7 Up–Sophie Scholl was a teen living in Germany as Hitler rose to power; this historical novel in verse is based on her life. As is expected of many young Germans at the time, Sophie joins Nazi youth groups. Over time, as she pays more attention to what is happening around her and learns of the slaughter of the Jewish population, she grows to despise the regime. She realizes being angry isn’t enough and being silent makes her complicit. Fully understanding the risks, Sophie turns her outrage into activism. She joins the White Rose resistance, helping to create and distribute leaflets calling out the horrors of the regime. She and other members of the White Rose are caught, interrogated, tried, and, eventually, executed. This difficult, inspiring story is told effectively in verse; the language is spare but powerful. Many pieces of this narrative—demonizing a population, standing silently as people are mistreated, fighting against harmful policies—are timely and relevant. The back matter includes information about key players, a glossary, a list of primary and secondary sources in both English and German, and a helpful author’s note giving more context to Sophie’s story. ­VERDICT This tale based on the real life of a young activist, supported by extensive back matter, belongs in all collections serving young teens.–Carla Riemer, Claremont Middle School, Oakland, CA

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