And We Rise

Viking. Feb. 2022. 160p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780593352526.
Gr 7 Up–Short poems use negative space and concrete poetry elements to tell the history of the civil rights movement in the United States. The prelude focuses on the “Separate, but Equal” ruling, and then the narrative is broken into three sections: “One Step Forward, Two Steps Back,” “Power to the People,” and “The Beginning of the End.” Tragedies, events, and people who were ignored by history are discussed, along with those who made the history books. The use of negative space and the occasional implementation of different fonts or concrete poetry impacts the narrative, like the visuals in a picture book. For instance, the poem “1959 March 5th” recalls the fire at the Negro Boys Industrial School in Wrightsville, AR. The word “bodies” is printed 21 times (in three columns and seven rows), referencing the number of victims “piled…one top of another.” The refrain “and on and on the Blacks Marched,” followed by the word “marched” repeated on the page, occurs several times within the book. Black-and-white photographs, surveys, signs, and even arrest records are included. Extensive back matter includes a time line for the poems, sources cited, a bibliography, and Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”
VERDICT The impact of the poems in this powerful, necessary book is strengthened by the layout of the text and drives home the struggle for civil rights. A strong first purchase.

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