From School Library Journal
Grade 9 Up–In the United States, readers primarily know the author through his collections of Caribbean children's poetry. This slender volume represents a fine introduction to the Guyana-born poet's work for older readers. One of his primary themes is race, as addressed in: And All Was Good, Skin, and Half-caste. In this powerful plea for tolerance, he insists that readers re-examine their own stereotypes and then, …yu must come back tomorrow/wid de whole of yu eye/an de whole of yu ear/an de whole of yu mind/an I will tell yu/de other half/of my story. He also focuses on the immigrant experience with Checking Out Me History, a different kind of unrequited love in Smoke-Loving Girl Blues, and the simple yet profound Salt and Coal. By turns playful and sincere, buoyant and thoughtful, his humanism is the thread that runs throughout these selections and reaches out to readers of all backgrounds. In Windrush Child, an homage to immigrants who came to England from the Caribbean, Agard eloquently voices a universal concern as he describes stepping in a big ship/not knowing how long the journey/or that you're stepping into history.–Marilyn Taniguchi, Beverly Hills Public Library, CA
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Gr. 4-7. The title poem is taught in many British classrooms, and Agard is a popular performance poet. Born in Guyana, he immigrated to Britain in 1977, and his lively, irreverent words celebrate crossing borders and mock official blabber. His poem about the British flag, "Union Jack and Union Jill," starts off with two people on a "patriotic fling." Soon their love grows more important than politics, and they laugh at "their convictions all flying in tatters." In "Checking Out Me History," the narrator asks why the curriculum includes 1066 and "Dick Whittington and he cat," but, as he goes on to say, "Touissant L'Ouverture / no dem never tell me bout dat." There are also hilarious poems that mock the hullabaloo about "mongrel blood" and poems full of beautiful puns. The small, spacious volume, with its witty, colloquial voice and rhythmic beat, will lend itself to readers' theater; performance is bound to spark laughter and debate. Hazel Rochman
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