Speak to Me: And I Will Listen Between the Lines

Overview

Six voices from an inner-city classroom

In a series of candid free-form poems, Karen English presents the thoughts of six third-grade children in one day and one classroom at an inner-city public school. Malcolm is the central observer, but also a dreamer. Rica has turned eight today, and her real father will be picking her up later. Brianna is upset because Rica has given over "best friend" status to Neecy. There's Lamont, who aspires to be ...

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Overview

Six voices from an inner-city classroom

In a series of candid free-form poems, Karen English presents the thoughts of six third-grade children in one day and one classroom at an inner-city public school. Malcolm is the central observer, but also a dreamer. Rica has turned eight today, and her real father will be picking her up later. Brianna is upset because Rica has given over "best friend" status to Neecy. There's Lamont, who aspires to be teacher's pet, and Tyrell, a kid bound for trouble from the moment he arrives.

Inspired by her own experience as an elementary school teacher, Ms. English captures voices that reflect a range of emotion and interest children will easily identify with, and Amy June Bates's watercolors breathe pictorial life into the characters.

Describes events of one day at a San Francisco Bay Area school as perceived by different second-graders, from the observations of first to arrive on the playground to the walk home.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"English employs the simplest of language in perfect evocation of the children's thoughts, confusions, small hopes, and large dreams...[Bates] enhances each poem with a beautifully powerful illustration, capturing every mood, every feeling...Just wonderful." Starred, Kirkus Reviews

"English's rich descriptions and insights bring readers into the world of six inner-city third-grade students . . . Teachers could easily use the book to discuss voice and perspective. With its uncluttered and inviting design, this title will have strong appeal." —Starred, School Library Journal

"The poems are written in a colloquial voice that will speak directly to many kids, and Bates' warm, realistic watercolors...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." — Booklist

Children's Literature
The six children who speak out during a day at school gives a kaleidoscope of what goes on in a third grader's mind. Of the six, Malcolm seems to be the serious one. He enjoys the beauty of the outdoors and of his ancestors. He enjoys the joy of being reunited with his mother and baby brother at the end of the day. Lamont seems to be "Mr. Goody two shoes." He reads well, tattles on the others, hogs his spot in line and stays in line as instructed. Some of the girls giggle, whisper to each other and become "best friends." And then there is Tyrell who can't keep quiet and ends up going to the principal's office with a list of all her sins. Most teachers will nod in agreement about the vast diversity of personalities and behavior of students in the classroom. It would be nice if all teachers were able to listen between the lines. 2004, Farrar Straus Giroux, Ages 7 to 10.
—Leila Toledo
School Library Journal
Gr 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 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374371562
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 8/28/2004
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 9.06 (w) x 10.54 (h) x 0.35 (d)

Meet the Author

Karen English is the author of many books for children, including the novel Francie, which was a Coretta Scott King Honor Book. She lives in Richmond, California.

Amy June Bates has illustrated more than twenty books. She lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

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