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Things I Have to Tell You: Poems and Writing by Teenage Girls

Things I Have to Tell You: Poems and Writing by Teenage Girls

by Betsy Franco

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Teenage girls tell their own stories—in compelling poetry and prose paired with 42 striking black-and-white photographs.

The voices in this collection have so much to question, so much to grieve. They have so much to celebrate, so much to rage against. They’re ready to speak up and begin the conversation — with you and with the world. More


Teenage girls tell their own stories—in compelling poetry and prose paired with 42 striking black-and-white photographs.

The voices in this collection have so much to question, so much to grieve. They have so much to celebrate, so much to rage against. They’re ready to speak up and begin the conversation — with you and with the world. More than thirty uncensored poems are accompanied by Nina Nickles’s masterful photographs, which sensitively capture the moods and essence of adolescence. Here, painted in the words of teenage girls, is a portrait of their dreams and desires - a record of hope, disillusionment, anger, joy, sadness, and most of all, strength.

Editorial Reviews

Poet and anthologist Franco vividly remembers the feelings of loneliness and isolation that she experienced as a teenager. Her personal memories prompted a wish to give girls from twelve to eighteen years old a way to tell their own stories, offering their peers help in facing the pain and challenge of adolescence. In 1997, she began soliciting literary contributions from young women throughout the world. Her project, intended to help teenaged girls find an outlet for their voices, resulted in this attractive volume that is enhanced by black-and-white photographs by Nickles. Disillusionment, humor, sadness, anger, sex, suicide, and ultimately, strength are all to be found in the poems and essays in this brief book. The voices are as varied as the subjects, ranging from wistful to raunchy. In Miriam Stone's clever poem, "A Bad Hair Day," the fifteen-year-old narrator reveals the age-old certainty that life would be different if one's hair would behave. Fourteen-year-old Denishia M. Thomas writes a heart-wrenching "Letter to My Great-Grandmother," the strong elderly woman who nurtured a child nobody else wanted. The affecting stream-of-consciousness poem "My Ode to Crank" by fifteen-year-old Lisa Woodward has a power and restraint many established poets would envy. These are but three of the outstanding pieces in this amazing anthology. Recommend this title to inspire and empower other young women. Teachers considering using the book in a classroom situation should be aware of some strong language and adult themes. Photos. VOYA CODES: 5Q 3P J S (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Will appeal with pushing; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades10 to 12). 2001, Candlewick, 63p, $15.99, $8.99 Trade pb. Ages 12 to 18. Reviewer: Jamie S. Hansen
Children's Literature
Writer and poet Betsy Franco has set out to capture the joys, sorrows, complaints and concerns of teenage girls. This compilation of over thirty poems and commentaries, each written by girls ranging in age from 14 to 18, captures the essence of what it means to be a female adolescent today. From discussions of the Women's Movement to self-esteem to sexual orientation, a variety of issues are covered. Some of the poems follow traditional verse with neat and tidy rhymes, whereas others are more unique, breaking free of conventional forms, reading more like pronouncements about the state of frustration or sadness of the writer. The expressive black-and-white photos that accompany the writing add to the strength of this anthology. This book is a great gift for any teenage girl. 2001, Candlewick Press, $15.99 and $8.99. Ages 14 up. Reviewer: Sheree Van Vreede
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up-In allowing the words of teens from across the nation to shine through, without polishing or pushing, Franco has succeeded in compiling one of the brightest collections out there today. In a mixture of prose and poetry, the young women express their fears, dreams, relationships, and angst. There are some poetic turns of phrases here ("we put on our chatter/like red lipstick/with the same amount/of greasy enthusiasm") and some strong language. And while the poems are triumphant in their realism, the book is elevated by the inclusion of gritty, unposed black-and-white photographs. These pictures, not taken to illustrate the poems, do so in an exemplary fashion. Like snapshots from personal photo albums, the images of a multicultural array of "everygirls" are harmonious complements to this outstanding collection. A fine companion to You Hear Me?: Poems and Writing by Teenage Boys (Candlewick, 2000).-Sharon Korbeck, Waupaca Area Public Library, WI Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
These 45 pieces, most poetry but some prose, come from the hands and minds of girls across the country. They're paired with black-and-white photos that, while not posed to match the poems, often resonate quite effectively. Sixteen-year-old Theresa Hassfeld's "Escape" faces a picture of a girl with her hair floating behind her in a bathtub, like the drowned Ophelia; other images focus on body parts—sneaker-clad feet, breasts, hands. With the self-consciousness comes a brimming self-awareness: 15-year-old Idit Meltzer Agam's incantation of "feminine" words; Jessie Childress in "New Honesty," writing, "Like a plastic ball, / I toss between myself / and the various identities / I have been assigned." Melissa Parker writes, with rue and pain, "I broke my own heart so many times," in "Born at 15." There is the occasional flash of amusement—15-year-old Danya Goodman writes in "Hallway between Lunch and English," "we march together toward / the war we cannot name / but at least we are dressed for it." Sure to find its audience and to inspire other girls—and boys—to write it down. (Poetry. 12 )

Product Details

Candlewick Press
Publication date:
Betsy Franco Young Adult Series
Edition description:
1 ED
Product dimensions:
9.50(w) x 7.75(h) x 0.54(d)
Age Range:
12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Do you know my secret,
Did I tell you it last night,
Were you listening to my dreams,
Were you hiding out of sight?

Do you look to find my secret,
Reading letters, reading notes,
Picking up sometimes on phone calls,
Opening books to see what I wrote?

Do you really want to know my secret,
Will it answer all your questions,
Take away your mass of worries?
Or maybe, you could ask for my suggestions.

Do you ever think to ask me about my secret,
Being honest and forthright,
With no lies or hidden feelings?
Only then will my secret come to light.

Jessica L. McCloskey, age 16

I look inside me and I don’t see it
I don’t see the power
The confidence you say I have
You say I can do anything
That I’m sure of myself and my intentions
And I wonder
But I don’t know
If it’s all there
Waiting for the opportunity to jump into you
And try to help you
Fix you
Ask you
Why? Because I don’t know
I wait anxiously
Feeling my stomach
A block of ice
Chipping away, melting,
then freezing up again
Who can I follow?
Cuz I don’t want to lead
I ask myself every question

There are temporary answers
But I know more
Like everybody seems to know more
And I still don’t know how
Cuz it’s nice to ignore confrontation
Avoid conflict
Watch my rainbow
And let you watch yours
But the universe knows more
I must take this test just like everyone
Takes tests
I am closing in on the sky
Hoping it will try to escape
And I know I will let it get away
Like I let a lot of things get away
Cuz then I won’t have to continue the search
For my power

Theresa Hossfeld, age 16

Today I gave up a promising career of "truth."
Profound state of love stepped in like a puzzle piece.
Completing, no, not the Empire State Building,
not Mt. Rushmore or van Gogh’s Sunflowers.
Completing instead my departure from "honesty."
Can I find a balance between me and the box I call my family?
I want equilibrium.
I want subtle change.
I want to tell the Truth,
not the truth of the woman who snapped on a collar and named me alive.

I found myself a place to be, to play a day went by or maybe two no thoughts of you to crowd my empty mind
I find my body is to me as lovely as a budding tree a cat with grace and emerald eyes so unconcerned with shapely thighs just me
Invisibly a girl inside this shape a woman’s hips and breasts so much wider, softer than the rest
I found myself a crystal blue like nymphs or faeries do

I never thought of you or what you’d think of me
I found my body was a mass of ground the earth inside of me behind my vinyl walls of picture perfection
I was the earth, the sky it made me want to cry to shout the softness
I have never dared let out my curves, my hair a part of who I was a blonde in a clear glass pond myself a flow of nature alone finding joy

Marissa Korbel, age 16

Words fly across the paper like blackbirds across the sky and I think to myself why oh why oh why why why,
Why would anyone use words like
I hate and
I can’t and
I quit therefore I won’t and
Good bye?
Why not take that beautiful skill and use words like
I love and
I can and
I will or at least I’ll try and
Hello . . . hello,
because I believe in word conservation and if you’re going to use a word at all it should be one that glides off of your tongue

I know I am strong both in my convictions and in myself.
I know I am beautiful both inside and out.
I know I am powerful and growing more so.
I know I will do just fine.

Laura Veuve, age 15

Things I Have to Tell You. Copyright (c) 2001 Betsy Franco. Candlewick Press, Inc., Cambridge, MA

Meet the Author

Nina Nickles has attended the Maine Photographic Workshops in Rockport, Maine, and the Santa Fe Art Institute in New Mexico. In 1999, she won an American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP) Big Picture Award, and her work has been shown in numerous galleries in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia. While photographing for THINGS I HAVE TO TELL YOU, she says she responded to "the language, flow, and nuance of gesture - gestures that were at once particular and individual but at the same time expressed so much."

Betsy Franco has published more than forty books for children and adults."My purpose and approach with THINGS I HAVE TO TELL YOU," she says, "was to let young women speak for themselves. These young women have something to say - and can they write!"

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