The Poet Upstairs

The Poet Upstairs

by Judith Ortiz Cofer, Oscar Ortiz
     
 

Juliana is too sick to go to school one cold, winter day. So she stays at home in bed and looks out her bedroom window. She watches as a tall lady in a red coat and hat carries her boxes of books and papers upstairs. Her mother has heard that the mysterious woman is a poet writing a book. Juliana loves books and can't wait to meet the poet upstairs.

Juliana listens

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Overview

Juliana is too sick to go to school one cold, winter day. So she stays at home in bed and looks out her bedroom window. She watches as a tall lady in a red coat and hat carries her boxes of books and papers upstairs. Her mother has heard that the mysterious woman is a poet writing a book. Juliana loves books and can't wait to meet the poet upstairs.

Juliana listens to the poet's typewriter clicking and clacking all day long, while outside the snow falls and people rush by bundled up in their coats. She dreams of a tiny tropical island “sitting on the ocean like a green button on a blue dress,” the island home that her mother and the poet share. She dreams of red hibiscus flowers and beaches of white sand.

The next day, she receives an invitation from the poet to come upstairs. Together, they write a poem about a big river that leads to the sea. As they make pictures with words, the walls of the cold apartment become a beautiful vista of mountains, palm trees, birds and flowers. That special day, poetry takes Juliana from her cold and ordinary apartment to a sparkling island habitat.

Invoking Puerto Rican poet Julia de Burgos' famous poem about the Loiza River, Ortiz Cofer's lyrical text is combined with Oscar Ortiz's breathtaking illustrations of the natural world and the animals that inhabit it. This inspiring picture book for children ages 5 to 9 demonstrates the power of the written word as Juliana learns that poetry can change the world.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A bilingual girl named Juliana learns about the immersive nature of poetry after a poet moves into the apartment above hers. Just the sound of the woman typing is enough to transport Juliana to a tropical island in her dreams; after venturing upstairs, Juliana collaborates with the poet on a poem that opens the girl’s eyes to the way that “words can change the world.” While heartfelt, Cofer’s prose can be overly sentimental (“a poem is like a magic carpet that can take you anywhere in the world and let you be anything you want to be”), while debut illustrator Ortiz blends urban and tropical elements in inventive ways. Ages 5�9. (Nov.)
Children's Literature - Rosa Roberts
Words can transport you anywhere is the underlying theme of this exquisite picture book for young readers. It all starts with a little girl who is not feeling well on the first day of school and has to stay at home to rest in her apartment. Unbeknownst to her, a poet has moved in to the upstairs apartment. The little girl, Juliana, loves books and her mother reads to her in English and Spanish. With the use of her imagination, Juliana hears the click clacking of the typewriter above and transports herself to a floating river, a tiny tropical island, and lake. Eventually, she does meet the poet upstairs and through her guidance writes her own poems. The resonating message of using your imagination to take you anywhere, and words having the power to change your world, echoes throughout the story of Juliana. The colorful illustrations complement Juliana's world of being transported to El Gran Rio. This book is a wonderful multicultural read. Reviewer: Rosa Roberts
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3—Juliana is excited when her mother tells her that a poet is moving into the apartment above them. Home from school due to illness, the child drifts to sleep to the sounds of the tenant's typewriter; she dreams of flying over the ocean and a lush tropical world. Juliana illustrates her visions, and as her strength returns, she slides a picture under the poet's door. The kindness is returned with an invitation to visit, and a poetry lesson ensues during which the girl learns to turn images into words. In an effective passage, the ordinary things around them transform into a fertile river scene-and then revert to their former identities when the poem is finished. The book's message-"that a poem is like a magic carpet that can take you anywhere in the world and let you be anything you want to be"-is realized when Juliana shares her poem with her Latina mother, who conjures childhood memories and a fresh interpretation. The text is longer than that in typical picture books, and Ortiz's illustrations don't always match Cofer's highly descriptive passages. Viewers will fare better if they stop seeking precise details and give themselves up to the vibrant palette and the motion created by the flora and fauna and patterns of animated lines that overlay each mixed-media composition. While this earnest story could have benefited from tighter editing and design, the notion that words have power is convincingly and creatively conveyed.—Wendy Lukehart, Washington DC Public Library
Kirkus Reviews
With help from her imagination and the poet upstairs, a young Latina escapes a dreary winter in the city. Out sick from school, Juliana sees a woman move into the apartment above her own. Readers discover that the woman is "a famous poet" who "lived on an island," as Juliana's mother once had. Falling asleep to the sound of the woman typing upstairs, Juliana dreams of a beautiful Caribbean island (presumably Cofer's native Puerto Rico). After awakening, she begins to imagine everything that the poet is doing above her and creates drawings of this dream island. Juliana slips these drawings under the poet's apartment door and is rewarded the next day with a pictogram message from the poet, inviting her to visit. Together, the nameless poet and Juliana write a poem about a river and escape into a lush land of tropical birds, flowers and sunshine. Although the poem ends and the two return to the cold reality of the city, the poet assures Juliana that she can use poetry as a way to journey to other places. This advice keeps Juliana from being lonely, even after the poet moves away. In his debut picture book, Ortiz adds depth to the fanciful, lengthy narrative with his colorful mixed-media artwork. This interesting-enough, though obvious tale is made remarkable by its illustrations. (Picture book. 5-9)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781558857049
Publisher:
Arte Publico Press
Publication date:
11/30/2012
Pages:
32
Sales rank:
1,311,985
Product dimensions:
8.60(w) x 11.10(h) x 0.40(d)
Lexile:
840L (what's this?)
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

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