Archive for the ‘Poetry’ Category

Review of The Lost Words, by Robert MacFarlane and Jackie Morris

Wednesday, July 31st, 2019

The Lost Words

A Spell Book

by Robert MacFarlane and Jackie Morris

Anansi Press, 2018. First published in the United Kingdom in 2017. 132 pages.
Starred Review
Review written July 6, 2019, from a library book

This gorgeous book focuses on twenty words from nature that had been removed from the latest edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionaryacorn, adder, bluebell, bramble, conker, dandelion, fern, heather, heron, ivy, kingfisher, lark, magpie, newt, otter, raven, starling, weasel, willow, and wren.

The book is large, oversized, and heavy, making it awe-inspiring. The only trouble I see with that is I can’t imagine children carrying it around to read it over and over. This is a coffee table book that’s physically heavy to pick up. Perhaps they could make a small version for everyday use? Though this one is stunning.

Each word first has a simple spread where the lost word is hidden among other letters, but highlighted in a different color. Then we have an acrostic poem featuring the word with a painting of the object on the facing page. Next there is a full-color glorious painting on the following spread.

I had gotten through almost the entire book before I realized that these poems absolutely must be read aloud. I went back and made up for my mistake of trying to read them silently. The poems are magnificent. I will highlight a few stanzas with wordplay I especially like.

From the Willow poem:

Willow, when the wind blows so your branches billow,
O will you whisper while we listen so we learn what
words your long leaves loosen?

From the Otter poem:

This swift swimmer’s a silver-miner – with
trout its ore it bores each black pool deep
and deeper, delves up-current steep and
steeper, turns the water inside-out, then
inside-outer.

From the Fern poem:

Reach, roll and unfold follows.
Fern flares.

Now fern is fully fanned.

From the heron poem, coming just after the marvelous line that the heron “magically . . . unstatues:

Out of the water creaks long-legs heron,
old-priest heron, from hereon in all sticks
and planks and rubber-bands, all clanks and
clicks and rusty squeaks.

Now heron hauls himself into flight – early
aviator, heavy freighter – and with steady
wingbeats boosts his way through evening
light to roost.

From the Ivy poem:

You call me ground-cover; I say sky-wire.

May this magnificent book open our eyes again to nature.

johnmuirtrust.org/initiatives/the-lost-words
houseofanansi.com

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Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of The Undefeated, by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Kadir Nelson

Monday, May 27th, 2019

The Undefeated

by Kwame Alexander
illustrated by Kadir Nelson

Versify (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), 2019. 40 pages.
Starred Review
Review written April 16, 2019, from a library book

Kwame Alexander and Kadir Nelson pretty much form my dream team of picture book creators. Kadir Nelson creates lavish, lush paintings of people who are radiant with light. Kadir Nelson writes poetry that sings. In this book they use those powers together to celebrate black Americans through the ages.

Kwame Alexander wrote a poem beginning in 2008, the year his second daughter was born and the year Barack Obama was elected the first African American president of the United States. He explains in the back many reasons he wrote the poem, culminating in this one:

But mostly I wrote a poem to remind Samayah and her friends and her family and all of you, and to remind myself, to never, ever give up, because, as Maya Angelou wrote, “We may encounter many defeats, but we must not be defeated. It may even be necessary to encounter the defeat, so that we can know who we are. So that we can see, oh, that happened, and I rose. I did get knocked down flat in front of the whole world, and I rose.”

Keep rising.

The poem references African American history, and the magnificent portraits that accompany the poem show people in action, some historical figures and some unnamed.

There are lines like this, accompanied by a portrait of Jesse Owens leaping:

This is for the unforgettable.
The swift and sweet ones
who hurdled history
and opened a world of possible.

There are lines like this, accompanied by a large portrait of Martin Luther King Jr.:

This is for the unlimited,
unstoppable ones.
The dreamers
and doers
who swim
across The Big Sea
of our imagination
and show us
the majestic shores
of the promised land:

There are lines like this, accompanied by a portrait of Jack Johnson, the first African American world heavyweight boxing champion:

This is for the unflappable.
The sophisticated ones
who box adversity
and tackle vision.

There are several pages with a whole group of people shown – and in the back you can check a list of historical figures with short bios to find out who they are.

The poem finishes:

This is for the
undefeated.
This is for you.
And you.
And you.
This
is
for
us.

And every portrait is of an African American person – but lifting the dignity of other humans raises us all. Celebrating triumph over obstacles elevates us all. So I believe this book is for me, too.

Magnificent.

kwamealexander.com
kadirnelson.com
hmhco.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, lyrics by Fred Rogers, illustrations by Luke Flowers

Friday, April 12th, 2019

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

The Poetry of Mister Rogers

lyrics by Fred Rogers
illustrations by Luke Flowers

Quirk Books, 2019. 143 pages.
Review written April 9, 2019, from a library book
Starred Review

They’re all here! The songs that make you think of Mister Rogers, beginning with “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” including songs like “You Can Never Go Down the Drain,” “What Do You Do with the Mad That You Feel?” “Everything Grows Together,” “It’s You I Like,” “Sometimes People Are Good,” “You Are Special,” and finishing with “It’s Such a Good Feeling.”

The only thing wrong with this book? Music is not included. All of this poetry was meant to be sung. And the only tunes I can partially remember are pretty much the songs I listed in the last paragraph. So I wish they had figured out a way to include the tunes. If not in the book, then maybe an accompanying CD?

In fact, not all of the poems here were written by Fred Rogers. Several are listed with the tagline, “Lyrics by Josie Carey, Music by Fred Rogers.” These poems are very much in the same style and are from the show, but unfortunately, we don’t get to see Mr. Rogers’ contribution.

It did dawn on me that “Everything Grows Together” would make a great song to sing at storytimes. It’s one of the few that I can remember the entire tune. So that will be my new little tribute to Mr. Rogers in my storytimes.

The book is packaged with bright pictures for children. But the truth is that the songs are all so affirming and joyful that I read a few songs every day for a nice boost to my spirits as I set out on that day. Sure, some songs like “You Can Never Go Down the Drain” speak to worries I’ve long put behind me. But it doesn’t hurt anyone, young or old, to be reminded that “You Are Special.”

Mr. Rogers packed a whole lot of wisdom into his simple songs. Reading them is a cheering thing to do. I love that they have been collected!

Won’t you be my neighbor?

MisterRogers.org
lukeflowerscreative.com
quirkbooks.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Blood Water Paint, by Joy McCullough

Saturday, February 16th, 2019

Blood Water Paint

by Joy McCullough

Dutton Books, 2018. 304 pages.
Starred Review
Review written April 16, 2018, from a book sent by the publisher.
2019 Morris Award Finalist
2018 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#1 General Teen Fiction

Wow. This book is amazing.

Now, the central event of the book is a rape – so I, personally, don’t think that’s “presentation for a child audience” [though that is only my personal opinion and I haven’t discussed it with anyone else on the Newbery committee]. But by the time I figured that out, there was absolutely no way I was going to stop reading.

This is a verse novel, which usually I don’t have a lot of patience with. But this verse spoke with a compelling voice that pulled me in immediately.

We have the perspective of Artemisia Gentileschi, who was seventeen years old in 1611 in Rome. Her mother died when she was twelve. She worked for her father, an artist, grinding pigments, preparing paint – and creating paintings for him, even though they bore his name.

In that world, women were used by men. Her mother had told her stories of the ancient heroines Susanna and Judith – they stood up to men and were vindicated, though it was not easy for them. Those stories, woven through the book, are the only parts that are not written in poetry. Yet they quickly make you feel what it must have been like for those ancient women – in a way that men who have never felt powerless cannot understand.

And then a young man hired to teach Artemisia perspective rapes her. And she tells the world what he did – but the resulting trial comes at great cost to Artemisia.

The powerless woman, used by men, stands up to the powerful, like Susanna and Judith before her. Though none of them spoke up without cost.

And the amazing part is that Artemisia is an actual woman, an artist, and her trial in 1611 actually happened.

Being verse, this book is not long. But its effect is long-lasting indeed.

They tell me I know
about perspective now.
Too well.
They say I’m standing
at the start of a long road,
looking out into the distance.
What do I see?

joymccullough.com
PenguinTeen.com

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Shout, by Laurie Halse Anderson

Saturday, February 2nd, 2019

Shout

The True Story of a Survivor Who Refused to Be Silenced

by Laurie Halse Anderson

Viking Children’s Books, March 12, 2019. 290 pages.
Starred Review
Review written February 1, 2019, from an advance reader copy picked up at ALA Midwinter Meeting.

[I do need to make a category for teen nonfiction. That’s what this is, but it certainly is appropriate for adults, so I’m going to list it on my nonfiction for grown-ups page.]

I read Laurie Halse Anderson’s novel Speak during library school, when I was taking a class on young adult literature (but wasn’t posting reviews because I was too busy). The novel, written twenty years ago, is already a classic. It features a girl who doesn’t speak because she’s traumatized by what happened to her at a party just before she began high school.

Now Laurie Halse Anderson is telling the true story of what happened to her.

This memoir is written in verse, and the poems are hard-hitting. She gives an outline of her background and the incident that happened to her that was later reflected in the book Speak. But more than that, she includes in the book many stories that were told to her after she wrote Speak. Stories from teens both female and male, and stories from women and men.

Here’s a bit from the poem “tsunami,” which is about the reaction from teens after Speak was published.

tens of thousands speak
words ruffling the surface of the sea
into whitecaps, they whisper
to the shoulder of my sweater
they mail
tweet, cry
direct-message
hand me notes
folded into shards
when no one is watching

sharing memories and befuddlement
broken dreams and sorrow
they struggle in the middle
of the ocean, storms battering
grabbing for sliced life jackets
driftwood
flotsam and jetsam from downed
unfound planes, sunken ships
and other disasters

She also writes about how much resistance there is to her books from teachers and principals, hoping if they keep her from talking about bad things, bad things won’t happen at their school.

the false innocence
you render for them
by censoring truth
protects only you

It’s not all sadness and tragedy, though. There are many sweet moments. I loved the part when, as a bewildered new author, she was a Finalist for the National Book Award. A student journalist commented on how friendly the five finalists, including Walter Dean Myers, were with each other and asked “Aren’t you supposed to be competitors?”

Walter took the mic and smiled
“No,” he said. “Not competitors.
We’re coconspirators, and we like it that way.”

I also love the part where she describes the year she spent studying in a student exchange program with a family on a pig farm in Denmark. That was a time when it was good to be on a new continent.

And I love the poem “yes, please” about how lovely it is to get a Yes.

the taste of someone who has proven
worthy
of your yes
is worth the questing, slow beckoning
interrogating, interesting, conversating
adventuring yes is ongoing
yes enthusiastic
yes informed
yes free-given
yes the truest test
of sex
the consent of yes is necessary

But the overall story is that the time to simply speak is done. Now it’s time to shout.

As she says in the final poem, “my why”:

stories activate, motivate,
celebrate, cerebrate,
snare our fates
and share our great
incarnations of hope

This is a wonderful book. I’m passing on my advance reader copy, because I know I’ll want to read it again in the finished form. Watch for it in March. The poems stick with you and get into your heart.

madwomanintheforest.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of No Fair! No Fair! poems by Calvin Trillin, pictures by Roz Chast

Monday, January 14th, 2019

No Fair! No Fair!

And Other Jolly Poems of Childhood

Poems by Calvin Trillin
Pictures by Roz Chast

Orchard Books (Scholastic), 2016. 32 pages.
Starred Review

Oh this book made me laugh! It compelled me to read it aloud, first to people at work, then even when I was home alone.

This is a book of poetry in the tradition of Jack Prelutsky and Shel Silverstein — rhyming poetry about the logic and illogic of children’s lives.

Here’s a stanza from one of my favorites, “The Grandpa Rule Is in Effect”:

Whenever Grandpa’s minding us,
There’s just one rule we must respect:
To do what we would like to do.
The Grandpa Rule is in effect.

Here’s the beginning of “Who Plays What?”

I like all our games of pretending,
But why is it always routine
That I am the queen’s loyal servant
And Claudia’s always the queen?

Here’s the refrain from “The Backseat”:

She’s over the line,
She’s over the line.
She occupies space
That’s rightfully mine.

And here’s a nice one full of kid logic, from “Could Jenny Get This Shot for Me? I’ve Done So Much for Her!”:

I know this shot will guard me from the measles and the mumps —
Diseases that could leave me with two different kinds of lumps.
I’m glad the stuff that’s in the shot will keep me safe from harm,
But can’t they put the needle into someone else’s arm?
If so, my older sister is the person I’d prefer.
Could Jenny get this shot for me? I’ve done so much for her.

I like all the small poems in “Evening Complaints.” This one’s called “Going to Bed”:

Though Nate stays up, to me you’ve said,
“Okay, my friend, it’s time for bed.”
I’ll bet when I’m as old as Nate,
You still won’t let me stay up late.
I’ll say, “I’m eight,” but you won’t care.
No fair, no fair, no fair, no fair.

I have to admit, a few of the poems didn’t quite work as well read aloud — but the majority are so well done, they compel reading aloud.

And Roz Chast’s pictures are the perfect companion! She gets a child’s eye view of the world just right — with that touch of cynicism and humor in every one of her pictures.

scholastic.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Wet Cement, by Bob Raczka

Friday, January 11th, 2019

Wet Cement

A Mix of Concrete Poems

by Bob Raczka

Roaring Brook Press, New York, 2016. 44 pages.
Starred Review

Bob Raczka explains what’s going on in this book in a note at the front:

I like to think of poems as word paintings. A poet uses words like colors to paint pictures inside your head.

In concrete poems, or shape poems, the words also paint pictures on the page. The poet arranges words in the shape of the thing the poem is about or in a way that emphasizes the poem’s meaning.

But here’s what’s really cool: by cleverly arranging individual letters, you can also paint a picture on the page with a single word. In this case, the letters become your colors.

In this book, I’ve done both. In the title of each poem, I’ve created pictures with letters. In the poems themselves, I’ve created pictures with words.

Besides showing kids what concrete poems are, this book gets the reader looking at things in new ways. I love the title example of calling the book of concrete poems Wet Cement and having the words pictured coming out of a cement mixer.

An example I can easily explain is his poem “Hopscotch.” In the title, the nine letters of “Hopscotch” go up the page in place as if in a hopscotch grid. On the next page, the twelve words of the poem go up the page in the same format.

The title of the poem “Clock” places the letter L inside the letter O looking like a clock. The poem has these words in a circle like the numbers of a clock: “The clock on the wall says it’s five ‘til three but”

Then the hands of the clock, appropriately placed, use the words: “the kids in my class say it’s five ‘til free.”

There’s lots of cleverness here. The poems are short and sweet and don’t look difficult. They’re at least not difficult to understand, but get you looking at the objects in new ways.

This book will definitely spur kids to try to create their own concrete poems. They may discover it’s harder than it looks!

But I like the way the ending poem, “poeTRY,” invites experimentation (and these lines are centered):

poetry is about taking away the words you don’t need
poetry is taking away words you don’t need
poetry is words you need
poetry is words
try

mackids.com

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Jumping Off Library Shelves, selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins

Friday, January 4th, 2019

Jumping Off Library Shelves

A Book of Poems

selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins
illustrated by Jane Manning

Wordsong (Highlights), Honesdale, Pennsylvania, 2015. 32 pages.

A book of poems about libraries! Yes, please!

There are fifteen poems in this book, all by different authors except for Rebecca Kai Dotlich, who has the starting and ending poem. All the poems have something to do with libraries.

I’m going to simply quote some of my favorite lines.

From “Refuge,” by Nikki Grimes:

. . . smiling at the sweet kingdom of story
inviting me in
to rest, to explore –
to dream.

From “At the Library,” by Michele Krueger:

I’ve found a treasure,
a literal pleasure.

a book
I’ve not read
before.

From “Enchantment,” by Jane Yolen:

Stack by stack,
shelf by shelf,
I pick out books
all by myself.

Of course I like “Librarian,” by Joan Bransfield Graham

How do you
always find
the perfect
book?

You get that
look
in your eyes
and there
it is . . .

another
surprise
to savor.

From “The Poetry Section,” by Alice Schertle:

It reached out and grabbed me!
That poetry sound
set my heart singing,
spun me around

like a million bells ringing,
a hundred-piece band –
those poems made music
right there in my hand.

There’s even a poem about reading to dogs at the library, “Reading with Riley,” by Kristine O’Connell George:

all ears, all listen,
as we snuggle deeper
into story.

From “Book Pillows,” by Amy Ludwig Vanderwater:

With my head on a book
I dream of a place
where a pig loves a spider. . . .

Wild things on a rumpus!
Fat evil kings!
Boy wizards, girl witches!
Horses with wings!

And the beginning and ending poems imagine mice in the library at the start and end of the day. Of course at night they read the books! From “Midnight in a Library,” by Rebecca Kai Dotlich:

whiskers, tails twitch,
there’s magic in the air;

These poems are accessible for very young children as well as kids in school. And they celebrate libraries. What could be better?

leebennetthopkins.com
boydsmillspress.com

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Measure for Measure, edited by Annie Finch and Alexandra Oliver

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2019

Measure for Measure

An Anthology of Poetic Meters

edited by Annie Finch and Alexandra Oliver

Everyman’s Library Pocket Poets, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2015. 256 pages.

Measure for Measure is like a college course on poetic meter. You learn about the different metric forms and then hear examples.like a college course on poetic meter. You learn about the different metric forms and then experience them.

The book explains various types of poetic meter – and then is filled with examples. This is a book that should be read aloud! There’s a nice selection of classic poems I’d heard before combined with more modern ones.

My one little complaint was that many examples were only excerpts from longer works, and I would have preferred the complete poem in most cases. But I have to say that this did keep the book short and manageable. The Everyman’s Library Pocket Poets come in a compact size, easily carried about, with a ribbon bookmark.

My method was to read aloud the poems on one double-page spread each morning. Hearing the poems, I quickly got a feel for the different meters.

Reading the names of the sections, you’ll understand that this book will teach you about new poetic forms. We’ve got: Accentual Poems, Trochaic Poems, Anapestic Poems, Dactylic Poems, Iambic Poems, Poems in Ballad Meter and Fourteeners, Amphibrachic Poems, Dipodic Poems, Poems in Sapphics and Alcaics, and Poems in Hendecasyllabics, Cretics, and Lesser Ionics.

This charming little book is both instructive and entertaining. And a must-read for aspiring poets.

randomhouse.com/everymans
everymanslibrary.co.uk

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Animal Ark, photographs by Joel Santore, words by Kwame Alexander

Sunday, December 9th, 2018

Animal Ark

Celebrating our Wild World in Poetry and Pictures

photographs by Joel Sartore
words by Kwame Alexander
with Mary Rand Hess and Deanna Nikaido

National Geographic, 2017. 40 pages.
Starred Review

At the back of this book, the photographer tells us:

At its heart, the Photo Ark was born out of necessity.

I have been sent around the world by National Geographic magazine for more than 20 years to take photographs of people, places, and animals. There have been assignments to capture images of the fiercest predators, the shyest sea creatures, the most beautiful birds, and so many more. Several years ago, I started to see that people weren’t paying much attention to the fate of all the other species we share this planet with. Without action, and soon, I worried that many animals could go extinct.

The Photo Ark is my answer to this. By introducing the entire world to thousands of photographs of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, and even insects, I hope we can get everyone following, liking, texting, tweeting, and even talking about this wondrous world of ours.

In the Photo Ark, every creature is equal. I use simple black and white backgrounds, which make all animals appear to be the same size, no matter how large or small they might be in the wild. Each photo also shows you the amazing detail of a creature’s scales, skin, or feathers; their eyes, antennae, or legs – each creature with its own kind of stunning beauty. A slippery minnow in the Photo Ark appears as big as a shark, and a tiny tiger beetle as impressive as a mighty tiger.

I want people around the world to look these animals in the eye, and then fall in love with creatures as dazzling as a pheasant or as odd as an octopus. And once we love something, won’t we do anything to save it?

The highlight of this book is Joel Sartore’s stunning photographs of 32 of these creatures. But they’ve been paired with Kwame Alexander’s poetry to make a powerful picture book and bring these animals to young readers. The poet chose haiku as the form to create a potent message and create instant connection with the reader.

I can’t emphasize enough how striking these images are against their black and white backgrounds. Of course, I got to hear Kwame Alexander perform some of these poems with the images flashed up on a screen. Unforgettable!

This is a book you need to experience for yourself.

KwameAlexander.com
nationalgeographic.com
ngchildrensbooks.org
nationalgeographic.org/projects/photo-ark/

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a book I received at an ALA conference and had signed by the author.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?