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Breaking Free: An Anthology of Human Rights Poetry

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Sometimes the poems in this international collection about freedom and oppressed peoples seem like prose statements broken into lines, selected more for their expression of political anguish than for deft use of language. (Writes one contributor: ``Going to prison/ I can remember the discomfort/ of being handcuffed.'') Nonetheless, when emotion infuses the entries, the effect is powerful-as in works by such diverse poets as Pablo Neruda of Chile and Chen Tzu-lung of China. Other worthy selections take the reader to Romania, Greece, Russia, South Africa and Britain. Intriguing black-and-white photographs and drawings with explanatory captions give the book a textbook tone, but while the volume is perhaps more suitable for social studies classes than for browsing, it bears witness to the fierce and timeless longing for justice and freedom. Ages 12-15. (Oct.)
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up-These poems about human rights span nations, beliefs, and centuries, and the words of classic poets such as Shelley, William Blake, and Dylan Thomas ache with prophetic wisdom of the pain and injustices to come. Contemporary poets, too, challenge the status quo of tyranny and injustice. Langston Hughes laments the trials of African Americans; Pablo Neruda, in his elegy to a poor man, hauntingly predicts too many deaths of people soon forgotten. These are heavy subjects-war, civil-rights violations, riots, government disputes, censorship-masterfully addressed and powerfully presented. Black-and-white photographs bring the book's strength full circle, depicting a Nazi concentration camp, hungry faces of refugees, and modern-day beggars. The book is slim, but well organized in manageable doses. Social studies or political science classes could use it to supplement studies of a particular culture, event, or time. Chilean poet Marjorie Agosin sums up a major theme of Breaking Free in her chilling poem about cold-hearted oppressors, ``And the most unbelievable part,/they were people/...like us.'' These selections can't help but spark interesting, and maybe heated, discussions.-Sharon Korbeck, formerly at Milwaukee Public Library
Hazel Rochman
Public and political, these are poems for reading aloud. They're about refugees, prisons, slavery, torture, and censorship, but that doesn't mean they are preachy propaganda. The best of them are dramatic and immediate. Some are anguished (a poem by the Chilean poet Dorfman begins, "My son is missing"); some have a biting sense of the absurd (Brecht feels for the writer whose books aren't important enough to be burned). The quiet poems about ordinary moments are some of the most intense (a Greek poet finds peace "when a knock on the door means a friend"). Black-and-white photos and prints on every page help to universalize the experience--for example, a poem from ancient China is next to a picture of a contemporary Palestinian refugee. Unfortunately, some of the text is printed on the pictures: it may look good as design, especially from a distance, but it makes it hard to read the words.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781568471969
  • Publisher: Heinemann-Raintree
  • Publication date: 10/28/1994
  • Format: Library Binding
  • Pages: 64
  • Age range: 11 - 15 Years
  • Product dimensions: 6.99 (w) x 9.74 (h) x 0.45 (d)

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