Quick Review: NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children – J. Patrick Lewis

September 8, 2011

  • Lewis, J.P., & Thompson, J., Illus. (2000). Freedom like sunlight: Praisesongs for black americans. Mankato, MN: Creative Editions.  40 p.  978-1568461380.  $17.95.  Gr. 4+.
  • Lewis, J.P., & Kelley, G. Illus.  (2006).  Black cat bone.  Mankato, MN: Creative Editions.  48 p. 978-1568461946.  $19.95.  Gr. 6+
  • Lewis, J.P., & Stone, K.M., Illus. (2005). Please bury me in the library. Orlando, FL: Gulliver Books.  32 p.  978-0152163877.  $16.00.  Gr. 2-5.
  • Lewis, J.P., & Chess, V. (1990). A hippopotamusn’t and other animal verses. New York, NY: Dial Books for Young Readers.  39 p.  978-0803705180.  $12.95.  Gr. K-5.
  • Lewis, J.P., & Munsinger, L., Illus. (2009). Spot the plot: a riddle book of book riddles. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books.  36 p.  978-0811846684.  $15.99.  Gr. K-5.
John Patrick Lewis is known for his nonsense rhymes and clever wordplay. This is on full display in a A Hippopotamusn’t, which is filled with clever and fun poems about animals. Please Bury Me at the Library is filled with great, albeit strange, illustrations by Kyle M. Stone, but the cleverness of the poems is reaching at times. Children will love the book-related verse in Spot the Plot, which uses the plots of beloved children’s titles for inspiration. Voracious readers will be shouting the answers out loud, and the clever answer key at the back doesn’t undermine sharp readers. Each of these titles are fun-wielding and many readers will appreciate Lewis’s joyful take on poetry. Freedom Like Sunlight and Black Cat Bone are considerably more somber and mature. Older readers will like the verse-style mixed with the biographical content. Lewis manages to inform the reader with interesting and thoughtful poems. Freedom Like Sunlight looks at the lives of thirteen famous black Americans, but the photorealistic oil paintings are the real draw here as the book doesn’t offer much beyond what is already known about these figures. Black Cat Bone marks Lewis as a formidable talent, but this is strictly for older readers (middle school-plus). He delves into the life of legendary blues man Robert Johnson in a haunting mix of fact and legend. Gary Kelly’s eerie paintings, Johnson’s lyrics, and extensive endnotes make this the most comprehensive collection of the bunch.
No Additional Thoughts . . . just that you should read Black Cat Bone.

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