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Speak to Me: (And I Will Listen between the Lines) Hardcover – August 13, 2004

4.5 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 3-5–English's rich descriptions and insights bring readers into the world of six inner-city third-grade students. In perceptive free-verse poems, they talk about their school day. Lamont loves school: "…I can give my teacher a new flower/And we can both be happy all over again." For Tyrell, however, the experience is painful: "I don't care about anything this day/And you can't make me." Malcolm is a dreamer who fantasizes about floating away on a cloud and thinks about slavery, the subject of a class lesson: "I come from the ones who knew they would not/Could not live/Yet still lived." Brianna is creative and independent ("I paint everything the way I want it"); Neecy is energetic and full of fun; and Rica is excited about turning eight and her new responsibilities ("Going to the store/With money and a list/That I can read"). Bates's watercolor-and-ink illustrations capture the characters' expressions and moods vividly: Tyrell's scowl and desperation; Lamont's proud, somewhat smug posture; Neecy's high-energy activities; and Rica's utter delight on her birthday. Particularly powerful is Malcolm's visualization of slavery. Teachers could easily use the book to discuss voice and perspective. With its uncluttered and inviting design, this title will have strong appeal.–Lee Bock, Glenbrook Elementary School, Pulaski, WI
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Gr. 2-4. "Soft morning / sun shining / brand-new day / and the playground mine." Written in the voices of mostly African American children in a third-grade classroom, the poems in this picture book imagine students' private thoughts and observations throughout the day. There are quick moments of joy: the pride of being first in line, admiration for the boy who can read "as good as the teacher." And there are deep hurts and longings: "You were best friends with me yesterday," says a bewildered girl when she is no longer the favorite; "My real daddy's coming / To love me more than anyone or anything," says another. Despite a few mannered, overreaching phrases, the poems are written in a colloquial voice that will speak directly to many kids, and Bates' warm, realistic watercolors, filled with spot-on expressions and body language, create strong character portraits to match the poems' voices. Teachers will want to share this with students to show how everyday language and familiar experiences can become poetry. Gillian Engberg
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 4 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 3
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR); 1st edition (August 13, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374371563
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374371562
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 0.4 x 10.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,192,937 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on February 6, 2005
Format: Hardcover
In spite of the nationwide acceptance of the verse novel, kids in general don't get a whole lot of poetry in their daily lives. There's hip-hop of course, but either it's a little too old for your average elementary school kid in terms of subject matter or its some hokey made-for-children junk concocted by white middle class joes living in the suburbs and presented within an educational context. Poetry itself, in its purest form, is a difficult form of writing. There are so many bad poetry books for children out there that the good ones tend to fall between the cracks. It is the dearest wish of my heart (right next to the dream that someday they'll come up with Godiva flavored gum) that "Speak To Me (And I Will Listen Between The Lines)" be remembered for years to come. A funny, sad, thoughtful picture book following the musings of six urban third grade schoolchildren in the course of a day at school, the book has a voice entirely of its own. More importantly, it fills a real gap in children's libraries everywhere. Though you may have to introduce it to them first, once discovered "Speak To Me" should garner itself a fair hoard of fans. If there's any justice in the world anyway.

There's Malcolm, Brianna, Lamont, Rica, Tyrell, and Neecy. And before you even get to the title page, you can see Malcom leaning on the top of the monkey bars on the playground wistfully contemplating the city in the poem, "The Playground In the Morning Before School". This quiet sober reflection about a child's love of a moment of pleasant solitude artfully begins the book. From thereon in every fear, hateful thought, desire, jealous moment, and feeling of admiration is written in the first person child's point of view.
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Format: Hardcover
Wonderful, character building poetry for your pre-schoolers through tween. Just read this book with my 4, 6, and 8 year old. They loved it. It came home from school so it has to go back, so I will be purchasing a copy. It was so much fun to read each characters part to my girls. This book you can read again and again!
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Format: Hardcover
This book is FABULOUS! I bought it for 3 girls that I love, ages 12, 10 and 9. The poetry was complex enough to keep the 12 year old reading, and easy enough to keep the 9 year old anxious to read more.
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By M. Heiss on November 17, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I'm not sure of this book's intended audience. Is this book maybe for teachers? To encourage them to delve into what lies behind those little faces in the seats?

My kids thought the book lacked subtlety -- too much to be good poetry. One said it was the kind of book an overly concerned smiling adult would use to try to pry your private thoughts out of you. My kids are older, and maybe more experienced with manipulative tactics.

I am thinking this could be used in a classroom or therapy setting to get kids to write their own complex in-the-moment poetry, but there are not too many kids who aren't familiar with what teachers want to hear.

I'm just saying.

The illustrations save this project -- adorable children.
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