Did the subtitle jar you a bit? "A Hostage Drama in Poems." Poems?! It works remarkably well. Mel Glenn takes a difficult subject--a berserk teacher holding his students hostage--and lets the drama play out in this unusual format. The poems--five from each student, one for each year of high school, and the last composed on the day of the crisis--reveal the thoughts, dreams, and fears of contemporary teens in an urban classroom. A bit like rap in visual form, the poems cut deep, build in suspense. The honesty expressed will capture the interest of even the most reluctant readers.
From School Library Journal
Grade 8-10. At 8 a.m. on June 16th, the seniors are lined up in the courtyard waiting to receive their yearbooks. Some flirt. Some daydream. Some are impatient. All of them will be in first-period history class where their teacher, Mr. Wiedermeyer, will lock the classroom door, brandish a gun, and hold them all hostage. Glenn's proven ear for the cadence of speech is exercised here with great skill while telling the story of each character's life and preoccupation. The many points of view expressed, the typographical versatility, and the creative use of white space all add interest to the unfolding story of the tragedy of a teacher's life and the vivid stories of his students. Unfortunately, melodrama supplants real drama. Stereotypical portrayals spoil any real involvement, and predictability destroys the suspense. The Jewish student is being pushed by his parents; the Asian student is hellbent toward success; the one with artistic talent thinks he is gay; one is pregnant; one is abused, etc. And the reporters are uncaring and aggressive; the parents scream and yell; and the administration bumbles along. The selections lack the conceits that heighten the enjoyment of traditional poetry?metaphor, simile, alliteration, onomatopoeia. But they're never boring and often very clever. YAs will find their interest piqued and reluctant readers particularly will be drawn to the excitement of design and content.?Marjorie Lewis, formerly at Heathcote School, Scarsdale, NY
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