From School Library Journal
Grade 3-8-Seven regions plus Washington, DC, are explored through 51 poems by 40 different poets. The selections explore each area's geography, climate, or urban or rural features. Classic poets such as Langston Hughes, Carl Sandburg, and Nikki Giovanni are represented along with David McCord, X. J. Kennedy, Myra Cohn Livingston, and Hopkins himself. Twenty poems were commissioned especially for the book. Alcorn's paintings reflect the emotional range of the poems through a variety of styles and images. The artist expresses the diversity of American geography using shape, colors, and texture to evoke a variety of landscapes and including people from many cultural backgrounds. Each section is preceded by a painted map of the region and brief lists of facts, including a "Great Fact" for each state. Previous collections of poetry about America have taken chronological, thematic, or biographical approaches. This regional arrangement invites connections to literature set in the places presented. When used along with Nora Panzer's Celebrate America in Poetry and Art (Hyperion, 1999) and Hopkins's Hand in Hand: An American History through Poetry (S & S, 1994) and Lives: Poems about Famous Americans (HarperCollins, 1999), this volume will enrich literature and social-studies units.Barbara Chatton, College of Education, University of Wyoming, Laramie
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Reviewed with Bobbi Katz's We the People.
These two large-size poetry anthologies will get lots of use across the curriculum--in history, civics, literature, and American Studies classes.Katz has steeped herself in the diaries, letters, journals, and biographies of famous leaders and ordinary people through U.S. history and written more than 60 first-person poems in their individual voices. The collection, arranged in chronological order, includes Chief Powhatan's "Message for the Settlers," a Yukon gold miner's tale, and kids' e-mail messages to President Clinton on the edge of the twenty-first century. Immediate and colloquial, sometimes wry, sometimes solemn, the poems work well as dramatic monologues, whether it's Orville and Wilbur Wright telling the "First Airplane" in two voices, Roosevelt on the New Deal ("The people are no mob to me. I have met them face to face"), or a Japanese American child on being interned during World War II. Nina Crews uses archival images and photographs in three collages to express a sense of past and present.Hopkins' organization is geographical. He divides the U.S. into eight regions. For each, he includes a map, a page of facts about the states, and seven or eight poems. Even the selections from the famous, such as Langston Hughes and Carl Sandburg, are not the usual familiar choices, and several poems were specially commissioned for the anthology. Some poems are purposive, but the best (including X. J. Kennedy's "Boulder, Colorado," Nikki Giovanni's "Knoxville, Tennessee," Ruth Lechlitner's poem about "This Kansas boy who never saw the sea," and several by Hopkins himself) capture places and people in all their diversity. Stephen Alcorn's handsome, multitextured pictures are sometimes overwhelming, but they avoid literal interpretation and capture the sweep of the land and the rhythm of the words. Hazel Rochman
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