Angela Johnson: Poetic Prose

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Angela Johnson's career as an award-winning young adult novelist almost did not happen. Like so many would-be writers, she had decided to pursue a more financially stable career: teaching. But in the end, Johnson abandoned the familiar—and seemingly more secure—and became an author. Her first picture book, Tell Me a Story, Mama, conveyed Johnson's talent as a writer and left readers hoping that more books were forthcoming. And come they did. Her picture books were concise, poetic, and memorable. But some wondered, could she write compelling YA literature? Her first book for adolescents, Toning the Sweep, proved that indeed she could. Sparse, poetic language similar to that found in her picture books made its way into her YA novels, and it caused quite a stir amongst critics. Now, with over forty books to her credit—including board books, middle grade novels, and young adult literature—Angela Johnson, who refers to her writing as unschooled and undisciplined, has made a major contribution to the field. Of her writing, Johnson says, "For most of my life I was a passive participant in my writing. It was something that I did because I didn't have any choice. If I never got anything published, I would still write. I woke up: I wrote poetry. I went to sleep: I wrote poetry." The author who says, "I am learning as I go," has certainly proven that she is an exceptional writer. Being a three-time winner of the Coretta Scott King Author award, 2004 winner of the Michael L. Printz award, and a 2003 recipient of the MacArthur "Genius" grant, is only the beginning for this talented writer.

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Editorial Reviews

VOYA - Brenna Shanks
This scholarly entry in the Scarecrow Studies in Young Adult Literature examines the early life, influences, and works of Angela Johnson. Growing up in Ohio, Johnson studied special education at Kent State University before leaving college to actively pursue her writing career. An early encounter with Cynthia Rylant led Johnson to youth literature. Known for her lyrical writing and timeless stories, Johnson's books touch on identity, loss, change, and tradition, themes explored in depth here. Hinton's expertise in English education and multicultural literature provides solid academic research while author interviews afford insightful details about Johnson's inspirations and writing process. Reflective quotes from Johnson start each chapter. Analyses of Johnson's entire body of work-picture books, short stories, and poetry as well as young adult novels-are integrated throughout. Critical responses to her work are also addressed. Hinton finishes with an examination of Johnson's role in African American literature, both as a writer for youth and as an African American woman writer. Although probably of more interest to librarians and educators, this book is a well-researched biography suitable for reports or even thoughtful fans. Certainly teachers seeking to use Johnson's books in their classes should find the literary criticism very useful. It is a solid purchase for professional and circulating collections.
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Product Details

Meet the Author

KaaVonia Hinton is assistant professor in the Department of Educational Curriculum & Instruction at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. Her specialization is English Education with emphasis in multicultural literature, particularly African American literature.

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Table of Contents

Part 1 Preface Part 2 Chronology Chapter 3 1. Discovering the Inner Voice Chapter 4 2. From Generation to Generation Chapter 5 3. "Short Takes" Chapter 6 4. Discovering Oneself Chapter 7 5. Discovering Change Chapter 8 6. Discovering Loss Chapter 9 7. Discovering Tradition Part 10 Selected Bibliography Part 11 Index Part 12 About the Author

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