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Carver: A Life in Poems Hardcover – April 9, 2001

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 - 14 years
  • Grade Level: 6 - 9
  • Lexile Measure: 890L (What's this?)
  • Series: Coretta Scott King Author Honor Books
  • Hardcover: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Front Street imprint of Boyds Mills Press; 1st edition (April 9, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1886910537
  • ISBN-13: 978-1886910539
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 0.6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #316,979 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 6 Up-By offering glimpses into George Washington Carver's life story through a series of lyrical poems, the structure of Nelson's book is as inspired as its occasional use of black-and-white photographs as illustrations. The poems are simple, sincere, and sometimes so beautiful they seem not works of artifice, but honest statements of pure, natural truths ("The Prayer of Miss Budd" and "Lovingly Sons," in particular). Ironically, the book's greatest strength, its writing, is also occasionally its weakness. In a few of the poems the language and the structure seem haphazard and these selections come across as underwritten ("Odalisque," "1905") or as little better than notes for selections yet to come ("Driving Dr. Carver," "Letter to Mrs. Hardwick"). Still, students will find much to glean from this volume and many of the poems will be perfect for reading aloud and make good monologues. A final grace note: the book will undoubtedly encourage some young people to learn more about this remarkable man.
Herman Sutter, Saint Agnes Academy, Houston, TX
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

One of the very few black Americans accorded great respect before the 1960s was botanist and educator George Washington Carver (1864?-1943). In a fine biography in poems, Nelson beautifully and movingly revives his reputation, made to seem paltry compared with that of such resuscitated firebrands as Garvey, Robeson, and DuBois. She traces Carver from his recovery after being kidnapped in infancy to his death while the famous Tuskegee airmen fill the campus on which he had worked since 1896 with the droning of aircraft. The life in between is characterized by hard work, intellectual curiosity, personal humility, devotion to the betterment of black Americans, enormous self-possession, and practical Christian piety. Nelson stints none of those characteristics in depicting Carver as good but not self-righteous, dedicated but not monomaniacal, invaluable but not self-important. She also renders Carver's context nontendentiously, in some poems conjuring racism at its worst and in others showing that particular whites helped Carver throughout his life. Historic photos illustrate Nelson's work with modest beauty. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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I liked every poem in this book.
Una poetisa
I will recommend this book to the teachers of a school where I am on the board.
So I was very surprised when I read Ms. Nelson's Carver, A Life in Poems.
Gregory McMahan

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Gregory McMahan VINE VOICE on April 11, 2002
Format: Hardcover
As a person coming from a hard-core science and engineering background, I never thought that poetry had any `value'. I never once saw in poetry insight into the nature and state of affairs of human beings. So I was very surprised when I read Ms. Nelson's Carver, A Life in Poems. Ms. Nelson presents us with poetry so rich in texture, so layered in meaning that these few lines of prose convey much, much more information than hundreds of pages of dry text. The book skillfully combines anecdotal historical footnotes with powerful poetic prose to tell the story of the most influential man in American agricultural history.
Carver the man overcame severe hardship and the prejudices of others to achieve great things. Living in a time when opportunities were few and far between for American Blacks, and slavery was a vivid recollection, Carver blazed a trail that few have been able to even approach, let alone top, since then. Even though he dealt with his share of racism, not every person not of African-American ancestry was unkind to him. Given the least of all of his peers, black or white, Carver went on to achieve the most in life. In spite of the hardships, the racism, and even the slights and insults of his own people, he left behind a legacy of good work, compassion, and technical accomplishment that stands the test of time. As such, Carver takes a solid place among the great minds of antiquity- from Imhotep, Egypt's greatest builder, to Confucius, China's greatest thinker and statesman.
Although Carver's array of inventions is impressive, his ingenuity and knack for turning what others see as worthless into something valuable, as in the poems `Chemistry 101' and `The Wild Garden' and `God's Little Workshop', is truly astounding.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 17, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This biography that won both a Newbery Honor and a Coretta Scott King Honor is an awe inspiring book. Nelson tells the story of George Washington Carver's life through a series of poems that act like snapshots in a photo album. She begins with a poem about Carver and his mother being stolen from their owner when they were slaves. John Bentley is sent after them but can only find baby George who he returns to the Carvers who raise him with his brother Jim. The poems go on to tell of Carver's search for education, his resourcefulness, and his spirituality. Different poems describe his artistic abilities, his studies of botany, his appreciation for all of nature, his artistic nature, and his dedication to his students and all of his people. The book traces his life from its beginning in slavery to his years in college and as an instructor at the Tuskegee Institute. Nelson's poems describe the life of an amazing genius who is too often overlooked as simply the inventor of peanut butter. Each poem acts as frame in the film of Carver's life. The poems work together to tell the story, but each poem can also stand on its own as a photograph of a moment from an amazing life. The historical footnotes in the text help to clarify the poems and the photographs of Carver, his family and friends, his creations, etc. help to create a better understanding of this incredible man.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Basically Amazing Ashley on January 24, 2012
Format: Hardcover
(This book is reviewed in conjunction with Your Own, Sylvia: A Verse Portrait of Sylvia Plath )

Your Own, Sylvia: A Verse Portrait of Sylvia Plath by Stephanie Hemphill received a Printz Honor award in 2008, and Carver: A Life in Poems by Marilyn Nelson won a Newbery Honor in 2002.

Both books are biographies written in verse. When I first heard about this idea, I was intrigued. Although I don't always love it, I do enjoy poetry and I've found that I really, really enjoy novels written in free verse (like Ellen Hopkins). I was very interested to see how reading a poetic biography would turn out, and I'm sorry to say that I was quite disappointed.

I read Carver first and I really expected to enjoy myself. By the time I got around to Sylvia, I was no longer expecting much. Some of the poems were thoughtful and insightful and made for interesting reading, but I never felt like I was really gaining that much knowledge about the lives of either GW Carver or Sylvia Plath. I would have much read an actual biography of each individual that then had these poems interspersed throughout the pages. In each book, there were brief notes offering a little additional insight into the person or time period the poem addressed, and I feel like I learned more about their lives, thoughts, and emotions from these tiny blurbs than from the poems, which I doubt was how I'm supposed to feel.

I feel like I'm missing a lot of essential information that is important for a biography to offer. I don't really feel like I know much more about these two people than I did before picking up the books.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Una poetisa on July 27, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I liked every poem in this book. The photos and brief timelines added so much to the pleasure of enjoying the poetry. I used the Kindle dictionary to learn even more about plants, and surfed the web for more information and photos. A terrific experience! I especially liked the poem about the author's father, who was a Tuskegee Airman when Carver was still at the institute. I believe this is a work of love that would be appreciated by poetry fans, scientists, and history enthusiasts alike.
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