CANTO FAMILIAR

This humorous, tender collection of 25 poems and full-color linocuts about the daily life of Mexican-American children is a companion book to Soto's Neighborhood Odes (1992). Invoking ordinary domestic and community incidents, it's a fine introduction not only to poetry but to Chicano culture. In ``Papi's Menudo,'' a father enjoys a favorite dish; the narrator of ``Music for Fun and Profit'' gets paid not to play an instrument; and ``My Teacher in the Market'' explores the amazement of a child upon seeing a teacher outside of class. The poems are generally descriptive rather than abstract, more concerned with communicating feelings than with literary style, and most are free verse, without regular cadence or rhyme scheme. Nelson debuts with scenes—homey, comfortable, bright—that make the book even more accessible. (Poetry. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-15-200067-4

Page Count: 79

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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An edge-of-your-seat read.

THE CANYON'S EDGE

A girl’s birthdays mark parallel tragedies for her broken family unit.

Last year’s celebration at a restaurant ended in an unexplained public shooting, and Nora’s mother died. She and her father are still wrestling with their trauma, Nora with a confirmed diagnosis of PTSD. For this year’s outing, Nora and her father head into the deserts of the Southwest on a rock-climbing expedition. They descend into a 40-foot deep slot canyon, then hike along inside until a flash flood barrels through the canyon, washing away all their supplies…and Nora’s father. She’s left to survive this symbolic and living nightmare on her own. Thankfully, she can make continuous use of her parents’ thorough training in desert knowledge. Brief sections of prose bracket the meat of the story, which is in verse, a choice highly effective in setting tone and emotional resonance for the heightened situation. Bowling’s poems run a gamut of forms, transforming the literal shape of the text just as the canyon walls surrounding Nora shape her trek. The voice of Nora’s therapist breaks through occasionally, providing a counterpoint perspective. Nora is White while two characters seen in memories have brown skin. The narrative also names local Native peoples. Elements of the survival story and psychological thriller combine with strong symbolism to weave a winding, focused, stunning narrative ultimately about the search for healing.

An edge-of-your-seat read. (Adventure. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-49469-4

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

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A poor performance, “[s]ans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.” (introduction, indexes) (Poetry. 8-11, adult)

ALL THE WORLD'S A STAGE

Like the old man’s hose, Shakespeare’s “Seven Ages of Man” speech is “a world too wide” to be well-served by this paltry selection of 21 poems, three per “age.”

Hopkins tries to inject some color into the mix with Walt Whitman’s “When I heard the learn’d astronomer,” Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s “How do I love thee?” and Lewis Carroll’s “You are old, father William.” Unfortunately, these, combined with passages from the speech itself, only make his other choices look anemic. To the “infant, / Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms,” for instance, Rebecca Kai Dotlich offers a bland “Amazing, your face. / Amazing”; on the facing page, a “traditional Nigerian lullaby” is stripped of music: “Sleep my baby near to me. / Lu lu lu lu lu lu.” Along with Joan Bransfield Graham’s “A Soldier’s Letter to a Newborn Daughter,” which ends with a condescending “I’m coming home / to my girls… / With All My Love, / DAD,” most of the rest are cast in prosaic free verse. Hopkins’ “Curtain,” probably written for this collection, closes the set with theatrical imagery. Billout supplies pale, distant views of small figures and some surreal elements in largely empty settings—appropriate, considering the poetry, but they lack either appeal for young audiences or any evocation of the Shakespearean lines’ vigorous language and snarky tone.

A poor performance, “[s]ans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.” (introduction, indexes) (Poetry. 8-11, adult)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-56846-218-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Creative Editions/Creative Company

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2013

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