Review: Push

“I wanna say I am somebody. I wanna say it on subway, TV, movie, LOUD.” page 31

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Push by Sapphire.
Vintage books, Random House, New York, my edition 1997, orig. pub. 1996.
Adult fiction incorporating poetry, 140 pages plus the Life Story Class Book (not paginated).
Lexile: not leveled.
AR Reader: 4.0 (worth 5.0 points)
NOTE: This book is not intended for children, whatever the reading level may be.

16-year-old Precious is pregnant with another one of her father’s babies and has been kicked out of school.  Her mother feels there’s no point and what’s the use, since she can’t read anyway?  But Precious, fierce, determined, angry, and sad, misses school and is going to try again.  Maybe her baby can have a better life than her.

Push by Sapphire

I came across this book in the most roundabout way.  I’d heard of it before and the movie Precious which is based on it.  But it wasn’t on my TBR, just one of those books you hear about and nod, “yes, I’ll read that some day.”  Then I was at the summer clearance at Barnes and Noble, and they had a copy of the 2011 sequel, The Kid in hardcover for a dollar.  That’s been sitting on my shelves for a year now, and I finally picked up a copy of Push.

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Review: Un-Ashamed

“I started spending time in the library, researching books on religion and philosophy.” page 56

Un-Ashamed by Lecrae Moore, with Jonathan Merritt.
B&H Publishing Group, Nashville, Tennessee, 2016.
Autobiography, 204 pages including notes (211 pages including blank note space).

The autobiography of a “Christian rapper” who successfully transitioned to general rap spaces and overcame many personal challenges.

Un-Ashamed Lecrae resized
Un-Ashamed by Lecrae.

This one is from the library.  I knew it was somewhat religious, but didn’t realize just how Christian it was.  There definitely were points that could apply to everyone, but it also was very heavy on religion.  For example, his conversion experience takes up most of a chapter, while other aspects of his life are given much less detail.  Lecrae sees his life through the filter of Christianity and views everything with God’s purpose in mind.

I’ve reviewed other books that deal with religion: with a religious main character, attempting to educate others about a misunderstood religion, a character discovering their religious identity, and even tackling a non-fiction topic from a religious perspective.  After some debate, I elected to review this book, since I did finish it, and it fits the main objective of my blog (to review books by/about marginalized groups).

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Review: Dave the Potter

“To us / it is just dirt, / the ground we walk on. / Scoop up a handful. / The gritty grains slip / between your fingers.” page 3

Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave by Laban Carrick Hill, illustrated by Bryan Collier.
Little, Brown, and Company Hachette Book Group, New York, 2010.
Picture book biography, 40 pages including end notes.
Winner of the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award, 2011.
2011 Caldecott Honor recipient.
Lexile:  AD1100L (What does AD mean in Lexile?)
AR Level:  6.0 (worth 0.5 points) .

Dave the Potter was a real-life African-American slave and artist.  He must have been incredibly strong, because he was able to successfully make pots as large as forty gallons.  He knew how to read and write, because he marked poems into the sides of some of his pots.  Beyond that we may never know many of the details of his life.

Dave the Potter Cover resized

This book came up several times before I bought it.  The first time, it was mistakenly labeled as fiction.  Later I realized it was non-fiction and added it to the bottom of my TBR.  After reading When the Beat Was Born by the same author, I decided to purchase this book, knowing that the writing would be excellent.  And I loved it!

Since so little is definitively known about Dave, this book focuses on the process of making his pottery that Dave would likely have gone through, using sparse poetry, detailed and realistic images of the process, and collage backgrounds imagining the world he inhabited.

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Review: A Time to Dance

“There are no dancers / on this temple’s walls. / Here, even Shiva / stands still.” page 99

A Time to Dance by Padma Venkatraman.
Nancy Paulsen Books, Penguin Group, New York, 2014.
Novel in verse, 307 pages.
Lexile:  720L  .
AR Level:  4.8 (worth 5.0 points)  .

Veda is a classical dance prodigy starting out on a glorious career in Bharatanatyam when her leg has to be amputated.  But dance is her life and the center of her being.  Can she forge a new life?  Can dance be part of it?

A Time to Dance

Pretty sure this is going on my favorite 2017 reads list although the competition will be steep this year.  Not what you expected me to say about a novel in verse, right?

My biggest problem with novels in verse is that they are incredibly difficult to balance.  I love novels, and I love poetry, but inevitably most novels in verse lose out either in plot or in poetry.  This book has ample plot and appropriate narrative arc, while still having generally gorgeous poetry.  I’m in awe of how Venkatraman pulled this off, because it is very, very difficult to do.

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Board Book Review: Baby Dance

The diverse characters in our sixth board book will get you and baby dancing!

Baby Dance by Ann Taylor, pictures by Marjorie van Heerden.
HarperFestival Devision, HarperCollinsPublishers, New York, 1999.
Board book, 14 pages.

Baby is crying and Mom and the cat are napping, so Dad takes baby for a movement-filled dance that dries up the tears until the happy, well-rested family reunites on their couch.

Baby Dance cover resized

I absolutely loved the swirling movement of the illustrations, and the way that the background subtly moved through the rainbow from a calm purple to an energetic yellow.

I wasn’t keen on the depiction of the hair.  We meet three characters – mother, baby, and a man presumably father, but not named, so he could also be an uncle, stepfather, or other relation.  Mom’s hair is long and curly/wavy.  Baby’s hair appears in some pictures to be in twists or short braids, but in others to be loose with bows on it.  Dad’s hair is equally ambiguous.  In this case I would have liked a little more definition for the hair.

Baby Dance p 13-14 resized
Baby Dance pages 13 and 14 depict the family reunited on the couch.

Again referring to the art, I was a bit confused by how baby was drawn.  Were the pictures intending to depict an older child, or did the illustrator just not have much experience drawing babies?  Since father and child are continually in motion, the art is much more difficult to execute, and the child looked adult or awkward on some pages.

However, I did enjoy the shading, interesting backgrounds, and portrayal of dad.  I’m curious what medium was used (chalk? pastels?) to get the layered swirls of color on the backgrounds.  The balance of text/picture was perfect for a board book; there is never more than a sentence on each page spread.

Baby Dance p 9-10 resized
Baby Dance pages 9 and 10 show dad dancing with baby.

The text is based on a poem from the 1800s – I assume white South African illustrator Marjorie van Heerden did the adaption, although perhaps it was the publisher.

Probably the aspect of this that annoys me the most is the spine.  This is part of the Harper Growing Tree line, so the spine is red to correspond with the level and the logo takes up half the space.  It doesn’t connect with the book at all, and since the book is rather slim, this makes it quite hard to pick it out off the shelf when I want to read it.

Rated for Newborns and up, this certainly is interactive to read to a wee baby and dance along.  However, the size is a bit big for Baby to play with, so we mainly use this as a lap book.  I think it will be more intriguing to a toddler, and the text, despite a few difficult words (ceiling), could be deciphered by an early reader.

I did have some qualms about a few aspects of this book, but overall the dancing and portrayal of a caring, involved father figure won me over.

Review: The Girls in the Circle

“The girls in the circle / have painted their toes. // They’ve twisted their hair / into big yellow bows. ” pages 4-7.

The Girls in the Circle by Nikki Giovanni, illustrated by Cathy Ann Johnson.
Produced for Scholastic by Color-Bridge Books, Brooklyn, NY, 2004.
Poem illustrated as picture book, 32 pages (including back matter).
Lexile: 490L.
AR Level: 1.9 (worth 0.5 points).
NOTE: Part of the Just For You series, level 2.  This book is poetry.

The Girls in the Circle is a well-known poem, here presented with illustrations and additional commentary and activities.  A group of girls staying at Grandma’s dress up in all her things.  But when Mom arrives, she won’t let them leave until they change back… or have they?

The Girls in the Circle cover resized

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Review: Coretta Scott

“things nature never intended / a child to see / haunted them / tragedy accompanies growth / no matter who we are” p. 22

Coretta Scott by Ntozake Shange, illustrated by Kadir Nelson.
Amistad imprint, HarperCollins Publishers, New York, 2009.
Biographical poem picture book, 30 pages.
Lexile:  not leveled
AR Level:  4.9 (worth 0.5 points)
Note: this book is an illustrated poem.

Ntozake Shange has written a poem and Kadir Nelson has illustrated it in this gorgeous, but non-traditional biography.

Coretta Scott cover

I’m not quite sure what I expected from this book.  Probably something more like Martin’s Big Words because the cover style looked similar to me.  Actually, it was quite different and I have some mixed feelings about it.  I’ve ordered another, more traditional children’s biography of Coretta Scott King which I’m hoping will compliment this one nicely.

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