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
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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 EngbergCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved