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

4.6 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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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
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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: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #187,783 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
After reading as much as I can find about George Washington Carver, I found this gem. Marilyn Nelson gives us glimpses into points in time over his life with stunning clarity and brevity. My personal favorite is the poem describing his source of all knowledge, that acquired by attending in a mindful and deeply meditative manner to nature in the early mornings. Four a.m. in the Woods

Darkness softens, a thin tissue of mist between trees.
One by one the day’s uncountable voices come out
like twilight fireflies,like stars.
The perceiving self sits with his back against rough bark,
Casting ten thousand questions into the future.
As shadows take shape, the curtains part
for the length of time it takes to gasp, and behold,
the purpose of his life dawns on him.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Having studied George Washington Carver as an icon in Black History, I had not been exactly privy to Carver, the man behind the academic, professional prowess or the pictures that have been used to illustrate his pioneering life's work. Dr. Carver was a creative, agricultural genius, but he was also a pure, gentle, spirit and soul whose faith was the driving force in his life. This is the true value of Nelson's wonderfully penned collection yielding his life in poems.

Each poem presents a day, time, or revelation in the life of a man we don't really know enough about. It was renewing and refreshing to read about the intricacies of his life, how he thought, felt, and reacted to nature all around him, even the people and the very challenging time periods through which he lived. He was a pioneer for sure and very inspiring.

Nelson has gone to great lengths and research to bring a superb book of poems to us, and I appreciate this work. I recommend this for poets, writers, educators, and students. I recommend it for my own three sons. This is biography at its poetic best! You can't read just one poem. You'll have to read them all. Together, they display and illustrate an amazing tapestry of a beautiful life. You will appreciate Dr. Carver in so many other ways after reading this book. He was so much more than an agricultural expert.
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