K is for Kindness Author: Rina Horiuchi Illustrator: Risa Horiuchi Published: April 26, 2022 by Viking Books
Goodreads Summary: Debut author/illustrator and sister duo have crafted a sweet ABC book that expresses how kindness can be found anywhere.
Ape picks an apple for Aardvark below. Bat puts a bandage on Brown Bear’s big toe.
From aardvark to zebra, this delightful cast of animal characters illustrates the many ways to show kindness to others, while teaching the youngest readers their ABCs.
Debut author/illustrator and sister duo Rina Horiuchi and Risa Horiuchi have crafted a warm and tender gift that affirms kindness can be found anywhere.
Ricki’s Review: This book is just so charming. It is a great way to learn the alphabet along with all of the ways that we can be kind. The book doesn’t feel didactic, and it was enjoyable for me, as an adult reader. There aren’t just simple animal names on each page, but instead, they read like this: ““Narwhal takes Newt, his new neighbor, to lunch.” The repetition is really helpful for young readers. I’ve been having my 6-year-old read it to my 3-year-old, and it makes my heart swell. I love the ending, in which readers are asked how they are kind—this allowed for some great discussions in our house.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book inspires me to want to choose an emotion or an abstract concept to make my own alphabet book! Kids would have a lot of fun making a shared book together!
Which page was your favorite, and why?
How do you demonstrate kindness?
How do the pictures and words work together to create a vivid representation of kindness?
**Thank you to Rina and Risa for this phenomenal book! It is a great addition to children’s literature!**
In 2004, when I began my career in children’s books with a book called Polar Bear Night (published by Scholastic, written by Lauren Thompson), I thought I had it all figured out. I was of the mind that picture books were mainly about the visuals (why else would they call them “picture books”). And as crazy as what I am about to say sounds, I didn’t really understand how the text functioned. I knew it filled blank spaces in the illustrations, but that’s about it.It seemed like “the icing on the cake”. Little did I know.
Then in 2010, I decided I wanted to bake a cake and ice it, too. My daughter had just been born, and I felt inspired to write a story about her. One morning, as I stumbled across the Gowanus canal on my way to my studio in Brooklyn (I hadn’t gotten enough sleep the night before), I spotted a tug boat. “That’s my story”, I thought. I could see the visuals perfectly.
But what about those blank spaces in the images? They’d need words! By this time, I had illustrated three books, visited a few classrooms, gotten to know the reading habits of kids, and was starting to figure things out a bit. I was learning that picture books were read-alouds, and that the words were very important (duh!).
I was on to the fact that words could be fun to say. Words could engage. More importantly, words could create a beginning, middle, and end in a book. I had so much to learn. I spent months writing my ideas down on index cards, until the cards fell together to form Little Tug (Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan).
This summer, my seventh book as both author and illustrator comes out. It’s called Moonlight. And I’m sure if I showed the book to my 2004 self, he’d scoff at the text. At only 85 words, he’d regard it as a very thin layer of icing on top of an already yummy cake.
But here’s what I’d say to my old, uniformed self: effective picture book text may seem effortless, but that’s not the case. I’d point out all the craft that went into the writing, a discussion of which, could be used to stimulate discussion in the classroom.
I’d point out FOUR examples of writing tools I used to bring the text to life:
PERSONIFICATION: The book opens with the line “Something is on the move”. Personifying the moonlight, turning it into the protagonist in the story, was one way I put a new spin on the traditional lullaby/nighttime theme.
VIVID VERBS: Words like “slithering”, “drifting” and “tumbling” give the reader a sense of action and adventure. They create excitement and drama.
ALLITERATION: “Sliding down silvery tracks” may just be my favorite line in the book. Why? It’s fun to say. And I have my editor, Neal Porter, to thank for that alliterative line. He replaced my original word, “Icy” with “silvery”. PS: I think it’s nice for young readers to hear how professional artists get help from their teachers (er, I mean editors 😉
SENSORY LANGUAGE makes a story relatable. I used the line “Then it rests for a while, next to you” for a rush of emotion at the critical moment in the story when the moonlight journeys into the child’s bedroom. Certainly, the image of the cat snuggled up against the child reinforces this ‘touch’.
So now that I’m thinking about it, this “icing on the cake” analogy doesn’t really apply anymore. In picture books, images always work together with text to tell the story. I had to work hard to figure this out, and luckily my editors and mentors have been generous with their advice and suggestions. Like most things in life, writing is about practice and good guidance. And a little piece of cake and a glass of milk while you’re working never hurts!
NOTE: Special thanks goes to teacher/reading specialist Renee Davis of Glastonbury, Connecticut (my sister-in-law) for acting as a consultant on this post.
Published August 23rd, 2022 by Neal Porter Books
About the Book: A lyrical bedtime read about the captivating effects of moonlight and its nightly journey.
“Something is on the move.”
When moonlight shines, it’s not like most light. In the quietest hours of the night, it swings through trees and slithers down rivers. It drifts in the wake of steamships and catches on the propeller of a passing plane. It blankets neighborhoods before coming to rest by your side.
In this bedtime picture book, Stephen Savage, author and illustrator of And Then Came Hope, Babysitter from Another Planet, and the Geisel Honor book Supertruck, presents a lyrical text and illustration full of dramatic light and shadow to pay homage to the mysterious moon and the unique ways it reveals itself each night.
About the Author: STEPHEN SAVAGE is an award-winning children’s book author and illustrator whose accolades include a New York Times Best Illustrated Book (Polar Bear Night) and a Geisel Honor (Supertruck). Polar Bear Night was a New York Times bestseller. He also wrote and illustrated And Then Came Hope and Babysitter from Another Planet. He teaches at the School of Visual Arts and lives in Brooklyn with his wife, daughter and two dogs.
One of the assignments during my Spring Children’s Literature course at UCF was creating a mini-teaching guide for the books we read for book clubs. We started with picture books for practice then students created them in their book clubs each week.
Today, I am happy to share the classroom uses and discussion questions found by my UCF Elementary Education students about fantasy novels.
Dragons in a Bag Author: Zetta Elliott
Published October 23rd, 2018 by Random House
Summary: Jax is left by his mom to an old lady by the name of Ma. Jax later finds out that Ma is a witch who has 3 dragon eggs that hatched. They need to return the eggs because they won’t survive in the regular world due to lack of magic. They go to portals through time that takes them to the time of dinosaurs. Along the way, Jax meets his grandfather who also knows magic, and has him return two of the dragons to the magic council but accidentally left one left behind so he returns to the regular world. He forces his mom and the witch to hash out their problems.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: When using fantasy in the classroom it is always a good way to spark your students’ creativity. This source could be used as a creative writing prompt to boost off their creativity of the story: Conduct an activity based upon the book like have them write a short story about what they would do if they were in Jax’s shoes and have them draw pictures of dragons, name them, and design the dragons how they would like them to be pictured.
What was Jax’s first impression of Ma?
How do you think Jax will return the last dragon to the magic council?
Who do agree with and why? Ma who wants to keep the world of magic separate or L. Roy who wants magic to come back to earth.
Why do you think Jax decided to open the window for the squirrel?
What were 2 things the dragons were not allowed to have?
When you first hear the word apprentice what comes to mind? Did you have the same thinking as Jax?
How does the story tie in with real-life scenarios with the fantasy?
Who are the most influential character apart from Jax?
When do we see the change of events come in play throughout the story?
When reading the book your imagination goes wild,in what other circumstances does your mind go other places when reading this story?
The Magnificent Makers: How to Test Friendship Author: Theanne Griffith
Illustrator: Reggie Brown
Published May 19th, 2020 by Random House Children’s Books
Summary: Pablo, Violet and Deepak are three friends who get sucked into a telescope and must play science games to come back and play again. Deepak is the new kid who makes Pablo jealous with his presence. Throughout the book, the team works together and build their friendship to complete the games.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: The book could be used as a classroom read-aloud over the course of a few days or a week. Due to the science elements, this book would be a good way to start off science discussions in the classroom. For example, the second chapter includes the students learning about food chains. This book is perfect to make connections back to science.
Why do you think Pablo was jealous of Deepak?
What were some of the challenges they had and what did they have to do?
Why do you think Pablo, Violet, and Deepak were chosen for the Maker’s Maze?
What do you know about producers, consumers, decomposers, and scavengers?
What were your favorite aspects of science that you learned from the book?
What type of emotion did the characters experience in the book?
When Deepak arrived to class, what did Pablo notice about him?
How does Pablo overcome is jealous toward Deepak?
Toward the end of the book why did they relate their friendship to the ecosystems?
Polly Diamond and the Magic Book Author: Alice Kuipers
Illustrator: Diana Toledano
Published April 22nd, 2018 by Chronicle Books
Summary: Polly Diamond is a little girl who receives a magic book that lets her bring to life the things that she writes and draws. She has a little sister who she doesn’t like very much and a brother on the way. Polly loves to write, she writes lists and stories and anything that she thinks is worth writing. When she starts writing in her magic book she realizes that the book can talk back to her. She writes to her book and comes up with lists and stories to write. She realizes that whatever she writes in the book comes to life when she writes about making a ladder to paint her room and the books on the floor magically move to make a ladder. The book tells her that is what she’s for and Polly quickly learns she can do anything she writes. She makes herself invisible and her sister into a banana. But she realizes that the book is taking everything she says literally. When she writes about eating a club sandwich the book gives her two slices of bread with a bat in between because it took the definition of a club literally. She told the house to fix up the carpet and turn her room into an aquarium. But the carpet was on the ceiling and fish were swimming around her room. She then realizes that everything she wrote was crazy and tries to put the house back to normal because she can’t even recognize it anymore. She fixes it just in time for her parents to come home with her new baby brother. At the end of the story she gives the book a name, Spell. And looks forward to writing and drawing another day with her new book, and friend Spell.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Polly uses and explains words like metaphor, affixes, alliteration, and hyperbole. This is a great opportunity to talk about these definitions, make lists of words and phrases that relate to these words, and do activities where the students use metaphors, alliteration, homophones, homonyms etc. It seems like a useful book to have in a first grade classroom and use with a higher level reading small group or a second grade class. It could also be used as a read aloud, again discussing the key words and their meanings, then practicing using those skills. There is a lot of use of imagery in this book as well as understanding literal meaning and how words matter.
After reading the text, students can respond to the story by engaging in a free write activity after they finish the reading. As a teacher, we could set a timer for five minutes and ask the students to write continuously about their thoughts on the book, good or bad, and afterwards, go over it as a small group.
Polly had many favorite words throughout the book, what are some of your favorite words and why?
Make a list of activities you would do to have a Super-Fantastic-Day.
In the book, Polly writes down what her dream bedroom would look like. If you could have your dream bedroom, what would it look like?
When Polly writes in the magic book, she learns that she needs to write clearly and use as much detail as possible. What are some important rules to follow when writing so people can understand your message clearly?
When Polly is playing hide-and-seek, why does she become invisible?
Imagine the turquoise notebook has changed your house like Polly’s. Please write a short story explaining what your home looks like in order to get it back to normal.
How does Polly feel having to share a room with her little sister when her brother is born?
If you had a magic notebook that could bring three things you wrote about to life, what 3 things would you write or draw and why?
Polly loves words with double letters like “Dizzy.” List 5 words you can think of that have double letters.
Polly loves alliteration. That’s when two or more words in a row begin with the same letter. What alliterations can you think of?
Sisters of the Neversea Author: Cynthia Leitich Smith
Published June 1st, 2021 by Heartdrum
Summary: This book is a tale about three children, Lily, Wendy, and Michael. Their parents, Mr. Darling and Ms. Florene Roberts-Darling are separating, splitting the family between two different locations. The night before Wendy and Mr. Darling are supposed to leave, the children are visited by a boy named Peter Pan and Belle. Stories of pirates and merfolk persuade the children to follow Peter Pan and Belle off to a mystical land called Neverland. Upon arriving the children are separated and discover once you arrive you can never leave. The children meet merfolk, pirates, native children, the lost, and fairies in a desperate attempt to figure out how to get home.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book will be great for a read aloud, book club, or close reading because it involves a lot of higher level vocabulary than some students may currently be reading at and it has long sentences and dialogue which again, some children could struggle with. These classroom uses would allow for discussions.
Geography could also be tied in because students could illustrate and demonstrate caves and waterways the Merfolk might have dwelled in. They also could show their knowledge of what an island like Neverland might have, and include what trees they think the lost boys were living in.
And, of course, it could be looked at versus Peter Pan as it is a retelling.
If you were a character in this book, who would you be and why?
If you were to create a different ending, How would it go?
Why do you think Mr. Darling and Ms. Florene wanted to separate?
What was your favorite part of the book?
What were some challenges that the children had to face or overcome?
Why do you think Peter Pan and Belle appeared?
Why do you think it was hard for the lost boys to remember who they are?
Why do you think Peter Pan never wanted to grow up?
Why do you think Belle brought Peter Pan to the island?
Why do you think the crocodile made a TikTok sound?
Does this book remind you of any other children’s stories? If so why?
Once Upon a Camel Author: Kathi Appelt
Illustrator: Eric Rohmann
Published September 7th, 2021 by Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
Summary: An old camel is out to save two baby kestrel chicks during a massive storm in the Texas desert.
Zada is a camel with a treasure trove of stories to tell. She’s won camel races for the royal Pasha of Smyrna, crossed treacherous oceans to new land, led army missions with her best camel friend by her side, and outsmarted a far too pompous mountain lion.
But those stories were from before. Now, Zada wanders the desert as the last camel in Texas. But she’s not alone. Two tiny kestrel chicks are nestled in the fluff of fur between her ears—kee-killy-keeing for their missing parents—and a dust storm the size of a mountain is taking Zada on one more grand adventure. And it could lead to this achy old camel’s most brilliant story yet.
About the Author: Kathi Appelt is the author of the Newbery Honoree, National Book Award Finalist, and bestselling The Underneath as well as the National Book Award Finalist for The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp. Some of her award-winning books include Maybe a Fox (with Alison McGhee), Keeper, and Max Attacks to name just a few. She lives in College Station, Texas. To learn more, visit her website at kathiappelt.com.
Richard, the camel, and Kathi Appelt taken at Texas Camel Corps. Photo credit: Doug Baum.
Review:Happy book birthday, Kathi & Once Upon a Camel! So honored to review this special book on your special day!
In all of Kathi Appelt’s books, what I have found that I adore the most is her ability to craft voice. She is brilliant. In this book, Zada the camel’s voice rings throughout with patience and determination. I was calmed by her stories of her upbringing as she works to keep the baby kestrels’ minds off of their parents. I think part of Appelt’s magic to craft voice is through her very specific word choice in all instances. Her descriptive words are so precise, and she is never deterred to use a word that may be challenging if it is the correct word. This leads to such lyrical prose–it is a pleasure to read!
There is also so much to learn throughout this story about stories: weather events (haboobs), animals of West Texas (kesterels, mountain lions, hawks, and more), and the history of camels. I found myself going on research tangents as I was introduced to different animals or different adventures that Zada goes on. It is no wonder that the Reading Group Guide is so extensive–there is so much to delve into!
Explain to students that alliteration is a literary device in which initial consonant sounds of successive or closely related words are repeated. This book contains tons of alliteration. Some examples include “arches and arroyos,” “moving mountain,” “posh Pasha palace,” “Pasha’s princess turns a little pale,” and “best beloved babies.” Using game tiles with letters or small pieces of paper with letters written on them, allow each student to draw a letter and write five alliterative sentences using that letter. Each sentence must contain a subject, verb, and describing words. Once everyone has written their sentences, each person should share their best alliterative sentence with the class.
Zada has had a long life filled with experiences and relationships. Her story in the book moves in time as she shares memories while continuing present experiences. Ask students to create a time line for Zada. There are online resources such as Adobe (https://www.adobe.com/express/create/timeline) and TimeGraphics (https://time.graphics) to help with organization. They may also do this in a slideshow format. Have them include dates, locations, and important experiences.
Beulah licks Wims, and he is upset. He is described as being “incensed. Put out. Piqued.” Discuss with students how this alliterative and repetitive approach to communicating his feelings is an effective way to convey the strength of those feelings as well as a lyrical way to engage the reader. Ask students to choose one emotion and make a list of synonyms or short expressions that express that emotion. Next, ask them to express the emotion in as many ways as possible in short sentences. Finally, ask them to use their list and sentences to write a paragraph that first explains why their character is feeling that emotion and that then elaborates on how they are feeling in as many ways and with as much creative imagery as possible.
Like humans and all other members of the animal kingdom, camels and kestrels have been classified based on shared characteristics. Looking at the list below, you can see that camels, kestrels, and humans are classified together in their kingdom and phylum, but begin to diverge at class groups and fully diverge in orders. Ask students to review the table and have a class discussion about classification. Give students the opportunity to consult some sources, if necessary, to answer their questions.
The story’s action begins with Pard and Perlita telling Zada that a mountain is eating everything and is soon going to eat them. Zada cannot comprehend this. Why do you think that is? How do you handle things you don’t understand? In truth, the mountain is a great sand-and-dust storm coming their way. How does knowing this change your perspective of the situation? How does Zada react?
The author explains how a camel has adapted to the desert, and how American kestrels are built for flight. All animals have adaptations: evolved physical and behavioral traits that help their species survive and thrive. Can you think of any other examples of this? What about cultural adaptations? Are there ways in which groups or individuals adapt for their own safety, comfort, or survival?
As Zada tries to outrun the storm, she wishes she could fly. This is not the first time in her life she has wished this. Why do you think she has continued to yearn for this ability? Thinking about your life and the environment in which you live, what other animal adaptations would come in handy for you? Explain your answers.
As Zada worries about Pecos de Leon, she reflects on the fact that she and the mountain lion have “both traveled a lot of miles and traversed a lot of country. That was worth something.” How can having many experiences help you? Do you think it’s important to experience situations similar to and different from your own life? What might you learn from someone who has lived a long time and done many things? Explain your answers.
As Zada moves through the storm carrying the chicks, an enormous old tree comes down behind them. “The wind had yanked it up by its roots. A hundred years, that old tree had stood there, watching over the creek, keeping generations of bird families safe. Now it lay in a heap on its side.” How does the falling tree make Zada feel? How did it make you feel? Do you think generations of bird families will be able to find a new home?
As the storm spins Perlita and Pard around, they call out, “‘Keep them safe!’” This is described as the “universal prayer” of parents. What does it mean for something to be universal? Do you have knowledge, ideas, or habits that are universal?
Zada’s and Asiye’s motto is “En parlak yildiz ol.” This means “Become the brightest star.” What do they mean by this? How do you see them striving to do this throughout the story?
Flagged Passages: “Chapter 1: Foothills, Chisos Mountains West Texas, 1910
Even in her sleep, Zada recognized that voice.
The old camel raised one eyelid. It was still dark. There was at least an hour left before dawn. She did not recall setting an early alarm bird.”
Clap When You Land
Author: Elizabeth Acevedo
Published March 5, 2020 by HarperTeen
Summary: In a novel-in-verse that brims with grief and love, National Book Award-winning and New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Acevedo writes about the devastation of loss, the difficulty of forgiveness, and the bittersweet bonds that shape our lives.
Camino Rios lives for the summers when her father visits her in the Dominican Republic. But this time, on the day when his plane is supposed to land, Camino arrives at the airport to see crowds of crying people…
In New York City, Yahaira Rios is called to the principal’s office, where her mother is waiting to tell her that her father, her hero, has died in a plane crash.
Separated by distance—and Papi’s secrets—the two girls are forced to face a new reality in which their father is dead and their lives are forever altered.
And then, when it seems like they’ve lost everything of their father, they learn of each other.
Ricki’s Review: I was so happy to see that this book won the Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award. It is one of the most beautifully written books that I have ever read. It made me laugh, it made me weep, and it filled me with so many emotions and so many wonderings. The book is beautifully lyrical, and the voices are so strong. There’s a scene in the book that simply took my breath away. If you haven’t read this book yet, I recommend you head out and purchase it now. It’s absolutely magnificent.
How do the two perspectives of the story work together? How did it enhance your reading of the story?
How does place function in the story?
Where is home for the characters?
How do the characters in the story grieve? What understandings did it offer about grief and loss?
How do the characters in this book show strength in many different ways?
“Can you be from a place
you have never been?
You can find the island stamped all over me,
but what would the island find if I was there?
Can you claim a home that does not know you,
much less claim you as its own?”
Read This If You Love: Books. Seriously, it would be very difficult not to see the beauty of this book. Elizabeth Acevedo is one of the greatest writers of our time.
Scooper and Dumper
Author and Illustrator: Lindsay Ward
Published: January 1, 2021 by Two Lions
Goodreads Summary: Introducing two new vehicles who work together no matter what!
The best of friends, Scooper the front loader and Dumper the snowplow take care of their town in all kinds of weather. One day a snowstorm hits, and the big city needs their help to clear the roads. Each of them must be brave in their own way to get the job done.
This wintry adventure spotlights the ideas of individual strengths, teamwork, and friendship in a vehicle buddy story that boys and girls alike will love.
About the Author: Lindsay Ward is the creator of the Dexter T. Rexter series, as well as Rosie: Stronger than Steel, This Book Is Gray, Brobarians, Rosco vs. the Baby, and The Importance of Being 3. Her book Please Bring Balloons was also made into a play. Lindsay lives with her family in Peninsula, Ohio, where vehicles such as Scooper and Dumper take care of the roads all year-round. Learn more about her online at www.lindsaymward.com.
Review:I loved this fresh take on vehicles. This is a story that teaches about the power of working together to get a job done. Parents and teachers can easily transfer it to lessons of togetherness and contribution. The winter scenes are beautifully illustrated, and the book flows easily to make for a fun read-aloud. Each page uses a unique ABCB rhyme pattern, which makes every page finish with a satisfying lilt. The rhyme feels natural and works well with the story.
My four-year-old is obsessed with vehicles, and this book inspired him to try reading it aloud. He absolutely loved the story. Here’s a brief clip of him reading the first page aloud:
I recommend this book to parents and teachers who seek to teach wonderful lessons with a topic that kids love!
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I would love to use this book as a model for kids to write about a time that they worked together toward a common goal. Students might draw a picture and write sentences below the picture to describe the moment or event. Then the pages could be posted on a bulletin board, working together in a quilt fashion.
How do Scooper and Dumper work together? What is their goal?
What steps are required to clear snow?
What is one time you’ve worked with one or more people toward a common goal?
Why does working together matter?
Read This If You Loved: Dump Truck Duck by Meghan E. Bryant; Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker, Demolition by Sally Sutton, Little Blue Truck by Alice Shertle, Where Do Diggers Sleep at Night? by Brianna Caplan Sayres
The Poet X
Author: Elizabeth Acevedo
Published March 6th, 2018 by HarperTeen
Summary: A young girl in Harlem discovers slam poetry as a way to understand her mother’s religion and her own relationship to the world. Debut novel of renowned slam poet Elizabeth Acevedo.
Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.
But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about. With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself.
So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out, much less speak her words out loud. But still, she can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.
Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.
About the Author: Elizabeth Acevedo is the youngest child and only daughter of Dominican immigrants. She holds a BA in Performing Arts from the George Washington University and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Maryland. With over fourteen years of performance poetry experience, Acevedo is a National Poetry Slam Champion, Cave Canem Fellow, CantoMundo Fellow, and participant of the Callaloo Writer’s Workshop. She has two collections of poetry, Beastgirl & Other Origin Myths (YesYes Books, 2016) and winner of the 2016 Berkshire Prize, Medusa Reads La Negra’s Palm (Tupelo Press, forthcoming). The Poet X is her debut novel. She lives with her partner in Washington, DC
National Book Award
Pura Belpré Award
Michael L. Printz Award
Golden Kite Award Honor Book
★ “Themes as diverse as growing up first-generation American, Latinx culture, sizeism, music, burgeoning sexuality, and the power of the written and spoken word are all explored with nuance. Poignant and real, beautiful and intense.”– Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
★ “Debut novelist Acevedo’s free verse gives Xiomara’s coming-of-age story an undeniable pull, its emotionally charged bluntness reflecting her determination and strength. At its heart, this is a complex and sometimes painful exploration of love in its many forms, with Xiomara’s growing love for herself reigning supreme.”– Publishers Weekly (starred review)
★ “In nearly every poem, there is at least one universal truth about adolescence, family, gender, race, religion, or sexuality that will have readers either nodding in grateful acknowledgment or blinking away tears.”– Horn Book (starred review)
★ “The Poet X is beautiful and true—a splendid debut.”– Shelf Awareness (starred review)
★ “Acevedo’s poetry is skillfully and gorgeously crafted, each verse can be savored on its own, but together they create a portrait of a young poet sure to resonate with readers long after the book’s end.”– School Library Journal (starred review)
“Crackles with energy and snaps with authenticity and voice.” —Justina Ireland, author of Dread Nation
“An incredibly potent debut.” —Jason Reynolds, author of the National Book Award Finalist Ghost
“Acevedo has amplified the voices of girls en el barrio who are equal parts goddess, saint, warrior, and hero.” —Ibi Zoboi, author of American Street
Kellee’s Review: I am not a rereader. Once I know a story, very rarely do I feel the need to revisit it; however, with The Poet X, I didn’t want to stop reading and listening to her words. As soon as I finished reading it, I found the audiobook so I could listen to it. The power of the words do not diminish with rereading, instead they scream from the pages into the reader’s hearts and minds with each read. I even plan on rereading it again because now that I know the story, I want to dive into the beautiful poetry.
With her story, Elizabeth Acevedo took me back to high school–she was talking to me. Actually, she is talking to so many: Girls who are trying to figure out their body and sexuality, Kids who are questioning religion, Families who are struggling with change, Students who are learning to find their voice, and So many people out there that need these words.
Ricki’s Review: I haven’t been able to stop recommending this book. I’ve even bought it for a few people! I’ve read this book twice, and I find new beauty in different elements each time that I read it. The writing is so captivating that I’d really love to see it as a movie or performed on a stage. Elizabeth Acevedo is known for her slam poetry performances, and she definitely won’t disappoint her followers in this one.
As Kellee noted, the themes are richly realized and offer much conversation for readers. It would make a wonderful book club selection. Each character has great depth, and I imagined them to be friends. I suspect many of the readers of this blog have read this book, but if you haven’t, drop everything and read it. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
How did one teacher change the course of Xiomara’s existence?
How are Xiomara and her mother alike in their passions?
How does Father Sean support Xiomara in her search for her personal identity?
Aman shows Xiomara that her body is not the only thing that speaks to boys. How does he show her that she is more than other men have made her feel?
How does Xiomara reckon with her own silence? Have you ever felt silenced? Why or why not?
How does Xiomara’s relationship with writing change her relationship with her mother over the course of the novel? Why do you think writing affects her relationship with her mother? What about church and spirituality–how does X compare and contrast religion (prayer) and poetry?
What is it about writing that makes Xiomara feel brave?
List the five senses. Read the poem “Names.” What do you know about your name? How is your name a sound? A smell? A touch?
Read Xiomara’s responses to Ms. Galiano’s writing assignment “When was the last time you felt free?” Write your own response to Ms. Galiano’s question.
I only know that learning to believe in the power of my own words has been the most freeing experience of my life. It has brought me the most light. And isn’t that what a poem is? A lantern glowing in the dark.
My brother was born a soft whistle:
quiet, barely stirring the air, a gentle sound.
But I was born all the hurricane he needed
to lift – and drop- those that hurt him to the ground.
Just because your father’s present, doesn’t mean he isn’t absent.
While I watch her hands, and face,
feeling like she’s talking directly to me.
She’s saying the thoughts I didn’t know anyone else had.
We’re different, this poet and I. In looks, in body,
in background. But I don’t feel so different
when I listen to her. I feel heard.
“Music for A” from The Poet X, Live Performance by Elizabeth Acevedo:
Audio Exceprt also found at: https://www.harpercollins.com/9780062662804/the-poet-x/
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