Review: My Brother Martin

“We three stuck together / like the pages in a brand-new book. / And being normal young children, / we were almost always up to something.” page 10

My Brother Martin: A Sister Remembers Growing Up with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Christine King Farris, illustrated by Chris Soentpiet.
Simon and Schuster, New York, 2003.
Picture book nonfiction, 40 pages.
Lexile:  970L  .
AR Level:  5.0 (worth 0.5 points)  .

Personal remembrances of Martin Luther King Jr.’s childhood from his older sister Christine.

My Brother Martin

I debated a lot before buying this book.  Our local libraries didn’t have it and the cover, especially in a small thumbnail version, is just so unattractive.  However, I was hoping for something different from the standard stories, which is exactly what this book delivers.  Luckily the interior art is excellent!

The book does skew a bit toward older readers with denser text and more difficult words like chifforobe, Cyclorama, Auburn, cruelty, bigotry, nourishing.  The main focus here is on MLK’s childhood, specifically on two fronts – both the ways in which he was an ordinary, sometimes mischievous little boy, and the events that shaped his personality.

My Brother Martin p28-29 resized
Martin Luther King’s congregation includes his son MLK, Jr. on pages 28 and 29 of My Brother Martin.

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Review: Clean Your Room, Harvey Moon!

“The softball he couldn’t find / Last Saturday, / One toothbrush, one helmet… / He put them away.” p. 18

Clean Your Room, Harvey Moon! by Pat Cummings.
Aladdin Paperbacks, Simon and Schuster, 1991, my edition 1994.
Picture book, 32 pages.
Lexile:  not yet leveled
AR Level:  3.3 (worth 0.5 points)  .

The story of one boy with a very messy room and the Saturday morning he spent cleaning instead of watching cartoons.

Clean Your Room Harvey Moon Cover resized

I’m always delighted when I find books about various life skills featuring children of color.  If diverse children are unrepresented in books in general, they are even more invisible in educational books, whether it’s word problems in the math textbook or “soft” life skill texts like this funny book about cleaning your room.

Harvey is settling down with a snack and getting ready for a Saturday of all his favorite cartoons when his mom walks in and tells him no TV until he cleans up his room!  Amidst moans and groans, Harvey starts cleaning.  The entire book is in loose rhyme and the funniest parts are about the items he finds in his room, both good and gross.

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Review: The Poet X

“He is an award-winning bound book, / where I am loose and blank pages. / And since he came first, it’s his fault. / And I’m sticking to that.” p. 99

The Poet X: A Novel by Elizabeth Acevedo.
HarperTeen, HarperCollins, New York, 2018.
Novel in verse, 378 pages.
Lexile:  HL800L ( What does HL mean in Lexile? )
AR Level: not yet leveled

Dominican-American teen Xiomara Batisa is one half of a pair of miraculous twins – their birth to older parents caused her philandering father to change his ways and reaffirmed their mother’s devotion to her Catholic faith.  Her genius brother Xavier skipped a grade and is living up to their miracle status, while she defends his comic book collection and feels inadequate.

The Poet X by Acevedo

Target seems to be shelving more and more diverse novels that I’m interested in reading.  There’s been some buzz about this one, but I didn’t know many details.  I think because of the title, I assumed it had to do with Malcolm X and just wasn’t interested.  But that’s not what this book is about at all.  This book is about poetry and love and family and the power of being who you really are.

But let me back up a bit.  There is a love story in this, but don’t get turned off by the heavy romance early on, because this is not a love story.  Rather, this is about Xiomara’s sophomore year of high school, and how she learned to be more confident in herself, and how her family relationships completely changed.

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Web: Maya Angelou

I’ve been reading some of Maya Angelou’s work, and what variety!  I’d really never progressed beyond some of her more popular poems, so this has been very eye-opening for me.

Perhaps you are new to Angelou’s work, or just want more background? Check out her biography page on the Poetry Foundation website.  You can get a good overview of her life and books as well as read a small sampling of her poems.

If you want to hear from the woman herself, check out this 2003 interview from Smithsonian magazine.  The wide-ranging conversation covers her traumatic childhood, her writing methods, and so much more.

Of course, you can also watch clips of Angelou or hear her recite some of her poetry at her official website, which is still running with updates on the latest Angelou-related projects.

Or watch one of the final Angelou projects come to fruition after her passing:

That’s Harlem Hopscotch, one of her poems reimagined as a song on the Caged Bird Songs album.  You can hear more on their website (this is the only music video, but they do have a few lyric videos available as well).

What’s your favorite Angelou book, poem, song, or project?

Review: Singin’ and Swingin’ and…

“Paris was not the place for me or my son. The French could entertain the idea of me because they were not immersed in guilt about a mutual history…” p. 165

Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas by Maya Angelou.
Bantam, New York, 1977 (originally published 1976).
Adult autobiography, 242 pages.
Not leveled.

Angelou Singin and Swingin resized
Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas by Maya Angelou.

In a funny coincidence, I gave away Angelou books (not even read yet… but better loved by someone else) and then a month later came across this in the free books.  Of course I started reading this one immediately and it was fascinating.  I’ve read quite a bit of her poetry before, but never one of her autobiographies.  Upon reading this one I realized that they are probably best read chronologically.

This title is the third, and covers the time when she lived in San Francisco after her son was born, worked a wide variety of jobs, spent a few years married to a white man, and eventually found herself with an entertainment career that took her all over the world, but sadly separated her from her son.

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Review: Push

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

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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