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Book Review: Amari and the Night Brothers by B. B. Alston

Publisher’s description

Artemis Fowl meets Men in Black in this exhilarating debut middle grade fantasy, the first in a trilogy filled with #blackgirlmagic. Perfect for fans of Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky, the Percy Jackson series, and Nevermoor.

Amari Peters has never stopped believing her missing brother, Quinton, is alive. Not even when the police told her otherwise, or when she got in trouble for standing up to bullies who said he was gone for good.

So when she finds a ticking briefcase in his closet, containing a nomination for a summer tryout at the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs, she’s certain the secretive organization holds the key to locating Quinton—if only she can wrap her head around the idea of magicians, fairies, aliens, and other supernatural creatures all being real.

Now she must compete for a spot against kids who’ve known about magic their whole lives. No matter how hard she tries, Amari can’t seem to escape their intense doubt and scrutiny—especially once her supernaturally enhanced talent is deemed “illegal.” With an evil magician threatening the supernatural world, and her own classmates thinking she’s an enemy, Amari has never felt more alone. But if she doesn’t stick it out and pass the tryouts, she may never find out what happened to Quinton.

Amanda’s thoughts

As I write this, it’s the final days of 2020 and Minnesota has decided to be very Minnesota-y and is having a rather unexpected blizzard. I’m tired and cranky and just over EVERYTHING lately. I stop and start books, I scroll on my phone, I rewatch The Office. Nothing feels interesting. But then! BUT THEN! I picked up this book. I read it slowly, delighting in every clever department name and plot twist. I got completely caught up in Amari’s world and only really set the book down to text people how great this book is. This book is stupendous.

Amari is off on a fantastical adventure after she receives a mysterious interactive recording from her missing brother. Under the guise of it being a summer camp, she goes to attend training at the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs, where her brother was apparently working before his disappearance. There, she’s paired up with her new roommate, Elsie Rodriguez, a weredragon and mastermind inventor, and learns that her brother was one of the most famous agents in recent history, responsible for helping bring about the end of two powerful magicians who were waging war on the supernatural world. Amari, whose aptitude and talents make it seem like she might be a hero, isn’t concerned about anything like that—she doesn’t want to be a hero; she just wants to find her brother. But when her talent is revealed to show her true abilities, suddenly Amari is seen as a potential villain, an enemy of the Bureau.

Now Amari has to prove herself to those in charge or she’ll be cut loose from the program and have her memory wiped. Staying and succeeding is the only chance she has at tracking down her brother. As Amari thinks, this is not so different from being a Black girl from the projects attending a private school (as she did). She’s used to standing out, to being judged. She doesn’t like being underestimated and will prove people that they’re wrong about her, but will have to deal with secrets, lies, blackmail, creatures, illusions, tests, and traitors along the way.

Every page of this story was a delight. Really all I want in life right now is for this whole series to be out and all the movies so I can just live inside the world of Amari and friends. I’m obsessed. Go order this right now. And get ready for it to fly off library shelves. One of the best starts to a fantasy series that I’ve read in a very long time.

Review copy (ARC) courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9780062975164
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 01/19/2021
Series: Supernatural Investigations #1
Age Range: 8 – 12 Years

Book Review: #MeToo and You: Everything You Need To Know About Consent, Boundaries, and More by Halley Bondy

When I’m reviewing books for professional publications, I stay quiet about them on social media. I’m always really excited once a review comes out to be able to talk about the book, finally! Here’s one of my most recent reviews, which originally appeared in an issue of School Library Journal.

Lerner/Zest. Feb. 2021. 200p. Tr $37.32. ISBN 9781541581555; pap. $14.99. ISBN 9781541581593.

Gr 6-8–Tweens and young teens learn about healthy relationships, consent, boundaries, red flags, and more in this thorough, age-appropriate book on breaking the silence around sexual abuse and harassment. Chapters cover power dynamics, definitions, myths, asking for help, being an ally, and taking action to raise awareness. The text, which is inclusive of all sexualities and genders, describes how to recognize abusive behaviors and how to avoid committing them. It also examines why people may have difficulty asking for help and why some may not pursue support. Subsequent chapters break down how to seek out help, what to expect and what you may be asked, how court proceedings may work, restraining orders, counseling, why some adults don’t offer support, and the consequences of failed justice. Sidebars of scenarios, both real and fictitious, and stories from people who experienced abuse are incorporated throughout. The discussion of relationships and consent isn’t limited to a romantic context. Examples range from not sexual or violent to extremely graphic and deeply unsettling. In “Kaye’s Story,” featured in chapter two, readers are warned that the story is not only “true” but “very disturbing.” The color illustrations of generic posed mannequins (like wooden artist’s models) detract from the personal tone and approach. This dense, intense read never sugarcoats any of the information. Repeated content warnings remind readers to only read what they can handle. Resources such as hotlines and nonprofits are listed throughout; many more are detailed in the back matter.

VERDICT A recommended resource to jump-start difficult conversations.

On Overcoming Fears and Becoming Superheroes, a guest post by Christina Li

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I was quite a shy and fearful child. Speaking up in class terrified me. I wanted to become an author, but I was scared I wouldn’t know how to write. As one of the few Asian kids in my Midwestern hometown, I was reluctant to embrace the culture of my Chinese-American immigrant family. Time and time again, I found myself hesitant to fully accept my identity, and to pursue the things I loved to do out of the fear that I wouldn’t be good enough.

At the same time, I was becoming an avid reader, and for me, books were life-changing. I read about main characters going on epic adventures across space and time, developing incredible superpowers, and facing off against lunchtime bullies and monsters alike. I read Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, a Chinese mythology-inspired fantasy with a resourceful and caring protagonist that helped me fall in love with my own Asian identity. As I read these books, I realized that these fictional kids I read about had lots of fears, just like I did. Over the course of their stories, they overcame these fears, little by little, to become bold, intrepid heroes. If they could do it, I could, too.

There are so many reasons why I wrote Clues to the Universe. I wanted to write about whimsical space comics. About dealing with loss. About families, born and found. But at the end of the day, I wanted to write about fearless characters and characters who overcome their fears to achieve extraordinary things. I wanted to write about a brilliant girl scientist, Ro, who is as proud of her Chinese-American identity as she is about her passion for rocket science, and who isn’t afraid to explore the unknowns of the world around her. I wanted to write about a shy artist, Benji, who admires comic book superheroes but isn’t sure of his own place in the world. Ultimately, I wanted to write about two kids who, in their budding friendship, learn to fight for the things they care about and for the people they love, to come into their own, and to become the superheroes of their own stories.

Meet Christina Li

Christina Li is a student studying economics at Stanford University. When she is not puzzling over her stats problem set, she is daydreaming about characters and drinking too much jasmine green tea. She grew up in the Midwest, but now calls California home. Clues to the Universe is her debut novel. Find her online at www.christinaliwrites.com.
Twitter: @CLiwrites Instagram: @christinaliwrites

About Clues to the Universe

Clues to the Universe

This #ownvoices debut about losing and finding family, forging unlikely friendships, and searching for answers to big questions will resonate with fans of Erin Entrada Kelly and Rebecca Stead.

The only thing Rosalind Ling Geraghty loves more than watching NASA launches with her dad is building rockets with him. When he dies unexpectedly, all Ro has left of him is an unfinished model rocket they had been working on together.

Benjamin Burns doesn’t like science, but he can’t get enough of Spacebound, a popular comic book series. When he finds a sketch that suggests that his dad created the comics, he’s thrilled. Too bad his dad walked out years ago, and Benji has no way to contact him.

Though Ro and Benji were only supposed to be science class partners, the pair become unlikely friends: Benji helps Ro finish her rocket, and Ro figures out a way to reunite Benji and his dad. But Benji hesitates, which infuriates Ro. Doesn’t he realize how much Ro wishes she could be in his place?

As the two face bullying, grief, and their own differences, Benji and Ro must try to piece together clues to some of the biggest questions in the universe.

ISBN-13: 9780063008885
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 01/12/2021
Age Range: 8 – 12 Years

Friday Finds: January 8, 2021

This Week at TLT

Book Review: Be Dazzled by Ryan La Sala

Post-It Reviews: Black Canary, hand-crafted dreams, and books set in the 1960s and 1980s

Cindy Crushes Programming: Random Fandom, a Conversation with Linden Galloway, by Teen Librarian Cindy Shutts

Rescuing and Celebrating Black Women’s Voices, an interview with Nikki Grimes

Book Review: Legacy: Women Poets of the Harlem Renaissance by Nikki Grimes

Take 5: Five Links of Interest for YA Readers – New YA for 2021

Riley’s Post It Note Reviews: These Vengeful Hearts, Down Comes the Night and Pumpkin

Around the Web

Betsy DeVos urges Congress to reject student loan forgiveness in apparent farewell letter

Don’t shy away from talking to kids about the Capitol riot. They know more than you think.

How To Talk To Kids About The Riots At The U.S. Capitol

Three ways to teach the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol

Lehigh University Revokes President Trump’s Honorary Degree

The U.S. Capitol Insurrection Does Not Mean We Need More Policing

Book Review: Be Dazzled by Ryan La Sala

Publisher’s description

Project Runway goes to Comic Con in an epic queer love story about creativity, passion, and finding the courage to be your most authentic self.

Raffy has a passion for bedazzling. Not just bedazzling, but sewing, stitching, draping, pattern making—for creation. He’s always chosen his art over everything—and everyone—else and is determined to make his mark at this year’s biggest cosplay competition. If he can wow there, it could lead to sponsorship, then art school, and finally earning real respect for his work. There’s only one small problem… Raffy’s ex-boyfriend, Luca, is his main competition.

Raffy tried to make it work with Luca. They almost made the perfect team last year after serendipitously meeting in the rhinestone aisle at the local craft store—or at least Raffy thought they did. But Luca’s insecurities and Raffy’s insistence on crafting perfection caused their relationship to crash and burn. Now, Raffy is after the perfect comeback, one that Luca can’t ruin.

But when Raffy is forced to partner with Luca on his most ambitious build yet, he’ll have to juggle unresolved feelings for the boy who broke his heart, and his own intense self-doubt, to get everything he’s ever wanted: choosing his art, his way.

Amanda’s thoughts

This book was a lot of fun. Yes, there was depth and drama and romance, but ultimately, it was the good fun that won me over. I was able to totally get wrapped up in Raffy’s world of crafting and cosplay and feel like I was right there at the con, witnessing everything unfold. What more can you ask for than for a book to take you away from reality and show you a different time and place?

There’s a lot going on in this story. Raffy’s super snobby artist/gallery director mom is horrible for most of the story. Never mind that he seems to mostly be raising and caring for himself while she disappears repeatedly to go do Important Things; she’s really awful because she actively does not support his interests and belittles his talent and ambitions. But Raffy doesn’t let her awfulness deter him—he continues to work in secret on all his builds and his social media. He’s hoping to get a sponsorship deal at some point to help pay for art school. His mother, of course, doesn’t think people should go to school at all, much less ART school—her being a snob extends to her looking down on formal arts education. Sure.

The now/then format of the story shows us how he got together with Luca, a bisexual soccer bro who’s a secret nerd, and how it all dramatically fell apart. In the “now” time, we’re at the con with them, watching them compete against each other until—TWIST!—they team up to work together.

They’re an easy couple to root for. Raffy’s total Type A personality and obsession with working on his crafting gets in the way of having a really good relationship. Luca has to keep lots of things about his time with Raffy secret, mainly from his family. But they really are into each other and are so cute together. And once they end up working together at the con, it’s easy to see how they will be able to overcome their past problems.

Full of messages about hiding yourself, authenticity, identity, being in costume to really be seen, trust, creation, and accomplishment, this fun read has wide appeal. Make sure the cosplay fans in your life get their hands on this!

Review copy (ARC) courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9781492682691
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Publication date: 01/05/2021
Age Range: 14 – 18 Years

Post-It Reviews: Black Canary, hand-crafted dreams, and books set in the 1960s and 1980s

Post-it Note Reviews are a great way to display books in your library or classroom, a way to let kids recommend their favorite titles without having to get up in front of everyone and do a book talk, and an easy way to offer a more personal recommendation than just the flap copy offers. Doing these short reviews would also be a great way to share more books during distance learning!

All descriptions from the publishers. Transcriptions of the Post-It notes are below each description.

Black Canary: Breaking Silence by Alexandra Monir (ISBN-13: 9780593178317 Publisher: Random House Children’s Books Publication date: 12/29/2020 Series: DC Icons Series, Ages 12+)

In this thrilling origin story of Black Canary, Dinah Lance’s voice is her weapon. And in a near-future world where women have no rights, she won’t hesitate to use everything she has—including her song—to fight back.

Dinah Lance was eight years old when she overheard the impossible: the sound of a girl singing. It was something she was never meant to hear—not in her lifetime and not in Gotham City, taken over by the vicious, patriarchal Court of Owls. The sinister organization rules Gotham City as a dictatorship and has stripped women of everything—their right to work, to make music, to learn, to be free.

Now seventeen, Dinah can’t forget that haunting sound, and she’s beginning to discover that her own voice is just as powerful. But singing is forbidden—a one-way route to a certain death sentence. Fighting to balance her father’s desire to keep her safe, a blossoming romance with mysterious new student Oliver Queen, and her own need to help other women and girls rise up, Dinah wonders if her song will finally be heard. And will her voice be powerful enough to destroy the Court of Owls once and for all?

(POST-IT SAYS: Well, now I need to read the others in this DC Icons series. A compelling story of resistance, oppression, politics, feminism, rebellion, and revolution. A good story about finding your voice!)

Clues to the Universe by Christina Li (ISBN-13: 9780063008885 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 01/12/2021, Ages 8-12)

This #ownvoices debut about losing and finding family, forging unlikely friendships, and searching for answers to big questions will resonate with fans of Erin Entrada Kelly and Rebecca Stead.

The only thing Rosalind Ling Geraghty loves more than watching NASA launches with her dad is building rockets with him. When he dies unexpectedly, all Ro has left of him is an unfinished model rocket they had been working on together.

Benjamin Burns doesn’t like science, but he can’t get enough of Spacebound, a popular comic book series. When he finds a sketch that suggests that his dad created the comics, he’s thrilled. Too bad his dad walked out years ago, and Benji has no way to contact him.

Though Ro and Benji were only supposed to be science class partners, the pair become unlikely friends: Benji helps Ro finish her rocket, and Ro figures out a way to reunite Benji and his dad. But Benji hesitates, which infuriates Ro. Doesn’t he realize how much Ro wishes she could be in his place?

As the two face bullying, grief, and their own differences, Benji and Ro must try to piece together clues to some of the biggest questions in the universe.

(POST-IT SAYS: This 1980s-set story about loss, family, friendship, and exploration is a great recommendation for readers who like quiet, emotional, character-driven reads. A good pick for those who like sad but not too sad books.)

The Nightmare Thief by Nicole Lesperance, Federica Fenna (Illustrator) (ISBN-13: 9781728215341 Publisher: Sourcebooks Publication date: 01/12/2021 Series: Nightmare Thief Series , #1, Ages 8-13)

For fans of A Snicker of Magic and The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl comes a suspenseful dark fantasy duology, perfect for middle school readers that love stories of magic and sisterhood with a dash of danger.

Maren Partridge loves working in her family’s dream shop where she can hand-craft any dream imaginable. The shop has only one rule. Dreams cannot be given to a person without their consent. Maren has no problem with this—until her sister, Hallie, has an accident that leaves her in a coma. Maren’s certain she can cure Hallie with a few well-chosen dreams. And when no one is watching, she slips her a flying dream.

But a strange new customer from the shop has been following Maren and knows what she did. Now she’s laid the perfect trap to blackmail Maren into creating custom nightmares for a dark and terrible purpose. As Maren gets drawn further into the sinister scheme, she must make a choice: to protect her family or to protect the town from her family’s magic.

(POST-IT SAYS: It will be easy to recommend this one widely. A town full of magic, a villain, interesting characters to root for, and just enough scary stuff to keep readers a bit on edge. Good fun!)

Just Like That by Gary D. Schmidt (ISBN-13: 9780544084773 Publisher: HMH Books Publication date: 01/05/2021, Ages 10-14)

In this poignant, perceptive, witty novel, Gary D. Schmidt brings authenticity and emotion to multiple plot strands, weaving in themes of grief, loss, redemption, achievement, and love. Following the death of her closest friend in summer 1968, Meryl Lee Kowalski goes off to St. Elene’s Preparatory Academy for Girls, where she struggles to navigate the venerable boarding school’s traditions and a social structure heavily weighted toward students from wealthy backgrounds. In a parallel story, Matt Coffin has wound up on the Maine coast near St. Elene’s with a pillowcase full of money lifted from the leader of a criminal gang, fearing the gang’s relentless, destructive pursuit. Both young people gradually dispel their loneliness, finding a way to be hopeful and also finding each other.

(POST-IT SAYS: Perfection in book form. Though filled with grief, sadness, and violence, this is such a warm, hopeful story of love, survival, and family in its many forms. A sensitive and thoughtful look at loss and moving forward.)

Rescuing and Celebrating Black Women’s Voices, an interview with Nikki Grimes

Today we are thrilled to have Nikki Grimes join us for an interview about her wonderful new book LEGACY: WOMEN POETS OF THE HARLEM RENAISSANCE.

Tell us a little about the research you did to rescue and celebrate Black women’s voices from the Harlem Renaissance era.  Did you discover new-to-you poets?

NG: The research work for Legacy actually began with One Last Word

Those sources included a deep dive into Voices in the Poetic Tradition, edited by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (1996), for starters.  I raided my own library for collections by each poet, found others referenced online, found copies of previously published, as well as unpublished manuscripts by a few poets through the miracle of interlibrary loan and the able assistance of a librarian—what would we do without librarians?

I mentioned this research on social media, and someone suggested I take a look at Shadowed Dreams: Women’s Poetry of the Harlem Renaissance edited by Maureen Honey.  This valuable resource led me to a few new-to-me women poets like Esther Popel and Clarissa Scott Delaney who died young, and only published four poems in her career, but what poems they were! In all, I read maybe a dozen poetry collections, plus anthologies, and biographies, and searched out individual poems and poets online, as well.

I found the stories of these women as inspiring as their poetry, and I knew young readers would, as well.  I was grateful my publisher made ample space for longer than usual biographies of each poet.  These poets included women who were among the first African American women to earn PhDs. They were well-traveled educators, social activists, editors, librarians, and directors of cultural institutes at a time in the early in the 20th century when little was expected of Black people, women especially.  I wanted young readers to have models of what is possible.

Strong themes of self, community and the earth prevail throughout all the poems in this book, as well as the unsurprising thread of hope (that I think is always found in your writing). Did you see other common themes emerge?

NG: I think there was a real celebration of life, throughout, even in the midst of heartache, of pain.  These poems all ended in a place of “Yes!”

The obvious and perhaps reductive answer to this question is probably “racism and sexism,” but why do you think so many gifted Black women poets from this era are overlooked?  As you said in your book, many people can readily name men who are Harlem Renaissance poets, but not women.

NG: Women always fall out of the narrative, almost right before our eyes!  If we want women to be paid attention to, it usually requires a woman to lift them up.  That’s true in the sciences, the arts—name any arena.  And we have to lift women up again and again.  The poets I’ve brought to the fore were not first discovered by me.  They were discovered, or rediscovered, by the academics who edited some of the dense, annotated, special collections I used for my research.  But few middle graders, or even casual adult readers, will go looking for these women in academic tomes, or on library microfiche, or on the shelves of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.  They will, however, pick up a beautifully illustrated collection of golden shovel poetry that highlights some of these women.  That’s my job.

I love the Golden Shovel format that you use here, and that you used in One Last Word. It helps create such a powerful connection between the source work and your own poems—they can be in conversation with each other and show ties to themes and feelings across the years.  What is it you like about this form and explain the form a bit to our readers.

NG: The Golden Shovel form in one in which you borrow a line or more from an existing poem, line those words up in the right margin, and then write new lines, each ending in one of the words from the original poem.  The new poem you write may be on the same theme, or it may be on an entirely different theme.  The choice is yours.

I love this form because it feels like literary sculpture.  The clay I start with are the few words I’ve borrowed from another poet.  I add in a few more words of my own, and start molding away.  I don’t quite know what the final image will be until it reveals itself.  It’s the not-knowing, the backwards puzzle-of-it-all that excites me.  With Golden Shovel poetry, anything seems possible!  Ten people could borrow the same line, the same handful of words and end up with entirely different poems, different messages, different points-of-view, each relating to the source poem in its own way.

In addition to your Golden Shovel poems in response to the original poems, the artwork is such a wonderful way to add dimension to the writing.  How did you pair artists with poems?

NG: I didn’t.  I worked on my dream list of artists, then we invited them to choose the poem that spoke to them.  The earlier an artist signed on, the more available poems she had to choose from.

This collection has certainly made me want to go seek out more of the works of these women.  Do you have favorite resources you discovered while researching to recommend (a great anthology, a fantastic website, etc.)?  What about recommendations of contemporary Black women poets?

NG: I already mentioned Shadowed Dreams: Women’s Poetry of the Harlem Renaissance edited by Maureen Honey.  That would be a great one to start with.  I also loved Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry edited by Camille T. Dungy, poetryfoundation.org is also a great place to search.  Two of my favorite Black women poets left the earth in the past few years, but their work is evergreen: Lucille Clifton and Mari Evans.  Other poets on my radar—not necessary for young readers, though—are Patricia Smith, Natasha Trethewey, Nikky Finney, Rita Dove and Toi Derricotte.  Really there are almost too many.  It’s a great problem!

I noted so many poems that stood out to me as I read and took notes but was particularly moved by Esther Popel’s “Flag Salute” and your “A Mother’s Lament.”  Do you have a favorite poem from this collection?

NG: Yes, “Flag Salute” got me, too!  It’s a powerful piece.  And I’m a sucker for Gwendolyn Bennett, so I love “Advice.”  But I think my favorite might be “Joy” by Clarissa Scott Delany which begins, “Joy shakes me like a wind that lifts a sail.”  She’s given us such a powerful, visceral, beautiful image—not of rage, or pain, or some dark emotion, but of joy!  I love that! 

What projects are you working on or are coming out soon? 

NG: The picture book Off to See the Sea, a bath time book, comes out a week after Legacy, and I have two nature-themed picture book projects in the works, and am gearing up for work on a new middle grade novel.  Never a dull moment!

Meet Nikki Grimes

Photo credit: Aaron Lemen

Nikki Grimes is a New York Times bestselling author and  the recipient of the Children’s Literature Legacy Award, the Virginia Hamilton Literary Award, and the NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for  Children. Her distinguished works include Southwest Sunrise, illustrated by Wendell Minor; the Printz Honor and Sibert Honor book Ordinary Hazards; NAACP Image Award nominee  Planet Middle School; Coretta Scott King Award winner Bronx Masquerade; Coretta Scott King Author Honor books Jazmin’s Notebook, Talkin’ About Bessie, Dark Sons, The Road to Paris, and Words with Wings, which was also named an ALA Notable Book; and What Is Goodbye?, an ALA Notable Book. She lives in Corona, California. www.nikkigrimes.com, Twitter: @nikkigrimes9

About Legacy: Women Poets of the Harlem Renaissance

From Children’s Literature Legacy Award-winning author Nikki Grimes comes a feminist-forward new collection of poetry celebrating the little-known women poets of the Harlem Renaissance—paired with full-color, original art from today’s most talented female African-American illustrators.

For centuries, accomplished women—of all races—have fallen out of the historical records. The same is true for gifted, prolific, women poets of the Harlem Renaissance who are little known, especially as compared to their male counterparts. 

In this poetry collection, bestselling author Nikki Grimes uses “The Golden Shovel” poetic method to create wholly original poems based on the works of these groundbreaking women-and to introduce readers to their work. 

Each poem is paired with one-of-a-kind art from today’s most exciting female African-American illustrators, including: Vanessa Brantley-Newton, Cozbi Cabrera, Pat Cummings, Nina Crews, Laura Freeman, Jan Spivey Gilchrist, Ebony Glenn, April Harrison, Ekua Holmes, Keisha Morrison, Daria Peoples-Riley, Andrea Pippins, Shadra Strickland, and Elizabeth Zunon.

Legacy also includes a foreword, an introduction to the history of the Harlem Renaissance, author’s note, and poet biographies, which make this a wonderful resource and a book to cherish.

ISBN-13: 9781681199443
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Publication date: 01/05/2021
Age Range: 10 – 14 Years

Book Review: Legacy: Women Poets of the Harlem Renaissance by Nikki Grimes

Publisher’s description

From Children’s Literature Legacy Award-winning author Nikki Grimes comes a feminist-forward new collection of poetry celebrating the little-known women poets of the Harlem Renaissance—paired with full-color, original art from today’s most talented female African-American illustrators.

For centuries, accomplished women—of all races—have fallen out of the historical records. The same is true for gifted, prolific, women poets of the Harlem Renaissance who are little known, especially as compared to their male counterparts. 

In this poetry collection, bestselling author Nikki Grimes uses “The Golden Shovel” poetic method to create wholly original poems based on the works of these groundbreaking women-and to introduce readers to their work. 

Each poem is paired with one-of-a-kind art from today’s most exciting female African-American illustrators, including: Vanessa Brantley-Newton, Cozbi Cabrera, Pat Cummings, Nina Crews, Laura Freeman, Jan Spivey Gilchrist, Ebony Glenn, April Harrison, Ekua Holmes, Keisha Morrison, Daria Peoples-Riley, Andrea Pippins, Shadra Strickland, and Elizabeth Zunon.

Legacy also includes a foreword, an introduction to the history of the Harlem Renaissance, author’s note, and poet biographies, which make this a wonderful resource and a book to cherish.

Amanda’s thoughts

I thought maybe I’d read a few poems in between reading other things. I did not do that. Instead, I read the entire book in one go, went back to read favorites, and started googling the writers I learned about in this book. How is it that my undergrad degrees are in English and Women’s Studies, and I took multiple classes on women poets, American literature, AND Harlem Renaissance writers and knew none of these names?! Thank goodness this book showed up to teach me.

Grimes set out to rescue and celebrate the voices of Black women poets of the Harlem Renaissance era and did a phenomenal job with this collection. A preface talks about how many men writing in this era were (and are) well-known, but gifted, prolific women were overlooked and forgotten. These women were not just poets but also editors of literary magazines and anthologies and played large roles in what was happening at this time. Grimes teaches readers a little bit about the Harlem Renaissance, like the conditions, movements, and ethos of the time. She explains the roles played by the Great Migration, the Nineteenth Amendment, women pursuing education, Black-owned newspapers/literary magazines/journals, and the new literati. All of this lays a foundation for the poems and illustrations that follow.

As she did in One Last Word, Grimes uses the Golden Shovel form here, creating new poems from a short poem or line from a poem. She presents the original work, then presents her own poem in conversation with that (using the Golden Shovel form), and then an illustration follows. Taken all together, these three elements create a stunning picture that shows so much power and emotion. I started noting which poems were my favorite as I took notes and ended up with nearly a dozen that really stuck with me. These poems are full of pain, power, pride, feminism, hope, community, identity, and strength. They deserve to be widely known.

The collection includes extensive resources, poet and artist biographies, and sources. This beautiful and moving collection deserves a spot in all libraries. What a wonderful addition this would be for poetry units. Not to be missed.

For more on this collection, please see my interview with Nikki Grimes.

Review copy (ARC) courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9781681199443
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Publication date: 01/05/2021
Age Range: 10 – 14 Years

Take 5: Five Links of Interest for YA Readers – New YA for 2021

Are you looking for information about new YA releases in 2021? Here are some links to help you get started. I love lists of lists all in one place.

Epic Reads Most Anticipated of 2021: https://www.epicreads.com/blog/most-anticipated-2021-ya-books/

Buzzfeed List of Most Anticipated Books Releasing in the First Half of 2021: https://www.buzzfeed.com/farrahpenn/2021-young-adult-books-new

Penguin Teen 2021 YA Book Preview: http://www.penguinteen.com/2021-ya-book-preview/

Simon Teen YA Book Covers First Look at Riveted: https://rivetedlit.com/2020/08/12/your-first-look-at-all-the-covers-for-our-spring-2021-ya-books/

GoodReads List of 679 YA Books Releasing in 2021: https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/113013.YA_Novels_of_2021

Do you have a list you would like to share? Please leave us a link in the comments.

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