Tag Archives: poetry

Books About Love

We are now well into wedding season here in New England, so here are a few books about love that were on display at my wedding recently!

 

9780395071762I Like You by Sandol Stoddard Warburg
Overall: 4.5 out of 5 stars

“I like you because
you are a good person
to like.”

 

9781524740917Love by Matt de la Pena
Overall: 5 out of 5 stars

This one may not seem like an obvious choice, other than the title, because it gets into what happens when you experience bad things, but the explanation is that you are loved and love carries you through the bad things.

 

9781452126999I Wish You More by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Overall: 5 out of 5 stars

“I wish you more ups than downs. I wish you more give than take.”

 

9781442436077Love is You and Me by Monica Sheehan
Overall: 5 out of 5 stars

This book seems to be about two friends, but you could take it as spouses/partners. Just lovely.

 

9780062394446How Do I Love Thee? by Jennifer Adams
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars

The text is the classic Elizabeth Barrett Browning poem; the illustrations are delightful.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood by Mister Rogers

9781683691136by Mister Rogers
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars

What a lovely little collection of Mr. Rogers’ songs. Luke Flowers’ drawings are charming and reflect diversity in the world. This collection would not be nearly as delightful without the illustrations. My only real critique is that these were originally songs and they do not really work as poems, words on paper. I would have loved a CD or DVD with the songs to listen to as you read. (It apparently does exist as an e-audiobook.)

Rebound by Kwame Alexander

9780544868137

by Kwame Alexander
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars

In this prequel to Crossover, which focused on the relationship between twin 7th grade basketball stars and their basketball superstar dad, Rebound tells the dad’s story of going through similar struggles of growing up. I wanted to like this so hard, because I loved the original book, Crossover. And it’s completely Alexander – very well-written, complex characters and solid story, which can be hard to hit in a novel-in-verse. However, it felt very derivative, both of Crossover (dad dies young, basketball main theme, starting to like girls, dealing with grief, police and black boys) and of As Brave As You by Jason Reynolds, where the main character is sent away to his grandparents’ house for the summer and earns his keep. The repetitive themes, in retrospect, seem to allude to the cycle of health, poverty, and social issues that people of color are likely find themselves in, especially as hit home by Granddaddy who advises Charlie to choose carefully who he wants on his team, and that he can count on his family. The scenes where Charlie really breaks through and grows did not hit me as hard as they did in Crossover, which was disappointing. I did appreciate the ending, which wraps up the dad’s story and brings it back to present day (actually a little beyond – high school graduation) with the twins. I had read Crossover long enough ago that I wasn’t completely sure CJ was who I thought she was, and that was nice to have confirmed for me. I’m not sure which order I would recommend reading these books in, though probably the original publication order makes the most sense.

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

9781481438254

by Jason Reynolds
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars

Before he was killed, Will’s brother taught Will The Rules: No crying, no snitching, and get revenge. Those are the guidelines for survival in their neighborhood, and Will takes them literally, until the morning after his brother’s death. In the elevator down to take care of the third rule, ghosts from Will’s path enter on each floor to tell him something he didn’t know about their death and how it is from the other side. In the 60+ second elevator ride, Will finally learns there is another way to deal with his brother’s death.

It took me two tries (and a pep talk from our teen librarian) to get into this one. As with many books, by the time my hold came in I’d forgotten what had actually hooked me about it, but she helped me remember. (Also the device of the 60-second elevator ride composing most of the narrative doesn’t kick in until after dozens of pages of backstory.) Once I was into it, though, this novel in verse slowly and subtly and then all at once left me agog with the topic fitting snugly into a hugely important gun violence discussion happening on the national level. There were several times when Reynolds’ mastery of language and mirroring had me gaping at his brilliance. (Spoiler: I fully expected Will’s mind to have been changed in 60 seconds but the ending made me unsure and I had to double-check with the teen librarian.)

This one is thematically more like All-American Boys than As Brave As You, but less like either of them than like, say, Booked or The Crossover.

The Sky is Everywhere

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by Jandy Nelson
Overall: 4.5 out of 5 stars

The Sky is Everywhere is Nelson’s debut novel, but I’ve already read her second book, I’ll Give You the Sun, which was stronger than this one. That said, this book falls solidly into my new favorite category: “book hangovers of teen love and lust.” Much like IGYTS, the characters struggle with love and grief and an absent mother.

Lennie (short for Lennon, as in John) is suffering the recent unexpected death of her beloved older sister, Bailey. The girls were raised by their grandmother; their mother abandoned them as small children. As Lennie finally learns to grieve, she finds out that among her sister’s secrets is a notebook full of her efforts to find their mother. But the main story is that Lennie finds a weird solace in the arms of her sister’s boyfriend, Toby, even as a new boy in town (whom every other girl is falling over) is falling for her. Lennie has to keep Joe from finding out how she and Toby comfort each other, unless she can bring herself to stop first. When everything falls to shit, as inevitably happens in life, two things help to resolve it, one of which I saw coming and the other I did not at all anticipate.

One really interesting thing about this book is that Lennie, the narrator, gives us two contrasting views of her physical looks. The first view is that she is plain, unpretty, especially in contrast to her sister, who seems incredible in all ways. This is Lennie’s view of herself, wearing unflattering clothes and hair in a ponytail. We are right with her when she describes how shocked she is that both Toby and Joe think she’s beautiful. Two other interesting themes are music and poetry, and apparently Nelson has an MFA in poetry.

Other books in the “book hangovers of teen love and lust” category have similar scenes of first kisses. This is definitely on the purer, more Eleanor and Park-esque, end of things than the more in-depth, mature, I’ll Give You the Sun end. Incidentally, I do not recommend attempting to sleep after staying up way past one’s bedtime reading this book (or any other book in this category). It will almost surely give you a book hangover.

Brown Girl Dreaming

by Jacqueline Woodson
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars

There is no doubt that Jacqueline Woodson is a wonderful writer and I did enjoy this book. However, I’m not entirely sure who it’s meant for. It’s not detailed enough on the civil rights side, not factual enough for those looking for a biography, and not enough of a heart-string puller for what I look for in a novel in verse. Ultimately, it’s about a little girl who wants to be a writer, and there aren’t enough of those little girls (or boys) to give this to. Still and all, I’m glad she wrote it – it’s a beautiful addition to her overall body of work – but just not sure it’s intended for children, per se.

I liked Woodson’s description of her separation from her father and might have liked to hear more about how he came back into her life when she was a teenager (especially since he is largely absent in the book but warmly mentioned in the credits). More detail of where her baby brother came from, since it sounded like he was lighter-skinned than the other kids in the family, and where his father fit into the picture. The hospitalization of her baby brother, separation of her parents, and death of her beloved grandfather were all threads I would have liked to have seen expanded upon. I also loved her friendship with Maria, who is still her dear friend according to the credits, and how Jackie is seen as a member of the family, which was very sweet. She struggles with the appearance of a new friend for Maria but that is magically resolved somehow. Overall, beautifully written and well worth reading, but I’m just not sure who the audience is.

Crossover

by Kwame Alexander
Overall: 5 out of 5 stars

Wow, I can definitely see why this won the Newbery Award this year. This novel in verse packs a punch while telling the story of seventh-grader Josh and his twin brother, sons of the legendary basketball player, sensations on the court. Josh feels left behind when his brother gets a girlfriend and they deal with their dad’s health scare in different ways. Josh is a good student and brings his vocabulary lessons into the poems to bring even more poignancy while telling his story.

There were two interesting parts in light of recent events regarding police violence targeting black boys and men, not to mention the history of black men sentenced to prison. On was when Josh and his dad get pulled over for a broken taillight. The police officer lets them go with a warning, but only after his dad pulls the fame card. Josh prays that his dad won’t go to jail. A little later, Josh loses his temper and lashes out at his brother physically. His mother is furious and gives him a lecture, calling him a thug and telling him that “boys with no self-control become men behind bars.” I hope that even those readers who don’t identify racially with Josh and his family can examine their own racial privilege in their reactions to this and have a conversation.