Booklist: Pure Poetry: VOYA’s Poetry Picks 2009

In keeping with VOYA’s annual tribute to National Poetry Month, we have assembled our twelfth annual list of poetry books that our reviewers have thought highly enough to bestow 5Q or 4Q ratings. These titles could help form the core of your teen poetry collection, with selections that cover a wide range of subject and poetic form. These books have been reviewed in VOYA from June 2009 through April 2010.

Bryant, Jen. Kaleidoscope Eyes. Knopf, 2009. $15.99. 978-0-375-84048-7. PLB $18.99. 978-0-375-94048-4. VOYA June 2009. 4Q 4P M J

“Bryant weaves an emotional novel in poems based on a true story of buried treasure. . . . [She] uses simplistic verses that are just right, including lyrics from rock songs of the time, to convey the seriousness of war and people’s views on equality among the blacks and whites. The characters are witty and well developed . . . in this well-written novel that will be an absorbing read especially for reluctant readers.”—Laura Panter.

Flake, Sharon. You Don’t Even Know Me: Stories and Poems About Boys. Jump at the Sun/Hyperion/DBG, 2010. 208p. $16.99. 978-1-4231-0014-0. VOYA February 2010. 4Q 4P J S

“Flake offers a vivid, unforgettable collection reflecting the experiences of urban African American males. The voices ring true; these authentic characters could be sitting in any big-city classroom.”—Sherrie Williams.

A Foot in the Mouth: Poems to Speak, Sing, and Shout. Paul B. Janeczko, Ed. Illus. by Chris Raschka. Candlewick, 2009. 61p. $17.99. 978-0-7636-0663-3. Glossary. Index. Illus. Photos. VOYA February 2010. 4Q 2P M J

“Janeczko’s selections are wide ranging, with a mix of classic and contemporary poetry that celebrates the sound of language. . . . It is a joyful book, with a distinct lack of angst often found in poetry written for or collected for teens.”—Mary Ann Harlan.

Frost, Helen. Crossing Stones. Farrar Straus Giroux/Macmillan, 2009. 192p. $16.99. 978-0-374-31653-2. VOYA October 2009. 4Q 4P M J S

“Beautifully written in formally structured verse, Frost’s story spans nine months from 1917 to 1918 . . . [and] deals with many issues, including the horrors and experiences associated with war: death, mutilation, separation; how the home front coped; gender roles and women’s suffrage; the Spanish influenza outbreak; and discovering what to do with one’s life. . . . At the end, in ‘Notes on the Form,’ Frost explains the formal structure of each person’s verse, which is amazingly done.”—Jane Van Wiemokly.

Herrick, Steven. Cold Skin. Front Street/Boyds Mills, 2009. 279p. $18.95. 978-1-59078-572-0. VOYA August 2009. 5Q 4P S

“In this riveting novel in verse, nine authentic voices unravel a shocking murder in a post-World War II Australian mining town. . . . [A] powerful combination of action and reflection make this page-turner a book that will encourage teens to question judgments and labels.”—Lucy Schall.

High, Linda Oatman. Planet Pregnancy. Front Street/Boyds Mills, 2008. 200p. $16.95. 978-1-59078-584-3. VOYA June 2009. 5Q 5P J S

“Told in free verse that lends authenticity to the narrator’s teen voice, this novel chronicles the momentous nine-month journey that [seventeen-year-old] Sahara enters, starting with the shocking results of her pregnancy test and ending after the delivery of her child. . . . [T]he novel is a realistic and compelling read for any teen.”—Jennifer McConnel

Hopkins, Ellen. Tricks. Margaret McElderry/S & S, 2009. 640p. $18.99. 978-1-4169-5007-3. VOYA August 2009. 4Q 3P S A/YA

“Free form poetry poignantly captures each character as they encounter love, sex, heartbreak, and the sordidness of prostitution. . . . Wisely the book ends with a modicum of hope for each, and the Author’s Note offers practical advice and a hotline for teens who might be in similar peril. Albeit well crafted, this book with its F-bombs and ruthless reality is an emotional journey that may be too harsh for many readers.” —Barbara Johnston.

Mora, Pat. Dizzy in Your Eyes: Poems About Love. Knopf, 2010. 176p. $15.99. 978-0-375-84375-4. PLB $18.99. 978-0-375-94565-6. VOYA February 2010. 4Q 4P M J

“Celebrated author and poet Mora offers encouragement by example in this appealing and evocative poetry collection that spans a rainbow of different types of love as well as provides an array of poetry forms
. . . . This collection may be used to stimulate young adults to attempt their own poetry and could easily be employed as a classroom tool.”—Ava Ehde.

Myers, Walter Dean. Amiri and Odette: A Love Story. Illus. by Javaka Steptoe. Scholastic, 2009. 40p. $17.99. 978-0-590-68041-7. Illus. VOYA October 2009. 5Q 3P M J S

“This interesting retelling of the Swan Lake story is set against the background of the projects . . . . His writing flows, like lyrics to a rap song, across the page. The paintings in this poem add to the grittiness and realism of the setting. . . . Teachers might also be able to use this book in conjunction with other units . . . a definite must-have in any school or public library.”—Jonatha Basye.

Nelson, Marilyn. Sweethearts of Rhythm: The Story of the Greatest All-Girl Swing Band in the World. Illus. by Jerry Pinkney. Dial, 2009. 80p. $21.99. 978-0-8037-3187-5. VOYA December 2009. 5Q 4P M J S

“Newbery Honor poet Nelson recreates [The International Sweethearts of Rhythm’s] almost-forgotten story through the voices of their instruments . . . in swingy one-page poems . . . Caldecott Honor illustrator Pinkney’s luxurious watercolor and gouache paintings capture the beat and the fabric of the Sweethearts’ music. . . . a stunning addition to any poetry collection.”—Marla K. Unruh.

Rosen, Michael. J. The Cuckoo’s Haiku and Other Birding Poems. Illus. by Stan Fellows. Candlewick, 2009. 64p. $17.99. 978-0-7636-3049-2. VOYA August 2009. 4Q 2P M J

“This picture book pairs watercolor illustrations of twenty common American birds with an accompanying haiku. . . . Although the haiku are a bit uneven in quality, most achieve the serendipitous distillation of each subject that is the hallmark of a beautifully composed haiku.”—Jan Chapman.

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