Children's Literature - Jan Lieberman
Poetry provides comfort and a sense of identification for children of all cultures. Gary Soto, a Mexican-American, writes what he calls "working life" poems, which deal with commonplace things - an evening's walk with a girl, a special friendship, selling oranges. He advises young poets to "Look to your own lives," as he has done in A Fire in My Hands. Each of the 23 poems is preceded by an anecdote to set the tone and help us see how his poet's mind works. "Poems feed into poems," he writes, "like a needle passing a stitch through cloth." Indeed they do.
This revised and expanded edition of Soto's original work features sixteen poems new to the collection, as well as sixteen others from the first edition that the poet has reworked and updated. In his introduction, Soto explains that he writes poetry to give life to the small details of the days, moments that add up to life itself. The poems collected here are fine examples and excellent teaching tools to encourage teens to write about the small but ultimately meaningful experiences of their lives. In the Chatting with Gary Soto section that concludes the book, Soto cites "Hitchhiking with a Friend" as his favorite of the collected poems, and it is clear to see why. Vivid and emotionally powerful-improved by the changes made since the 1990 edition-it illustrates exactly what Soto is aiming for in celebrating life through poetry. This slim volume is a must-have for school and public libraries. VOYA CODES: 4Q 3P M J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2006, Harcourt, 96p., $16. Ages 11 to 18.
School Library Journal
Gr 7-12-- A collection of 23 free-verse poems, each prefaced with a comment on how it came to be written. All reflect Soto's own experiences of growing up as a Mexican American in California, and, later, as the father of a young child. The poems, about everyday activities and events, are similar to Paul Janeczko's work in Brickyard Summer (Orchard, 1989). In the brief foreword and a question-and-answer section in the back of the book, Soto explains how he came to write poetry and why he writes as he does. Like the selections and comments by a number of contributors in Janeczko's The Place My Words Are Looking For (Bradbury, 1990), Soto's poems and thoughts provide gentle encouragement to young people who are seeking to express themselves through the use of language. --Barbara Chatton, College of Education, University of Wyoming, Laramie
From the Publisher
"These simple, free-verse selections skillfully capture that which is commonplace and transforms it into something mesmerizing and lovely. . . . will delight creative-writing teachers who are looking for a book that demonstrates the genesis of a poem as well as the compelling universality of the human experience."—SLJ