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Book Reviews of Literature for Children and Young Adults

Poetry, Drama, Film

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Author Study - Louis Sachar

Split Image by Mel Glenn
Seeing the Blue Between by Paul Janeczko
No Easy Answers by Don Gallo

Glenn, Mel.  2000.  Split Image. New York:  Harper

     Collins Publishers. ISBN:0688162495.

 

     The American Library Association chose Split Image by Mel Glenn as a Best Books for Young Adults in 2001.  The story about Laura Li is told through a series of poems by different characters. Children’s Literature says, “The poems are related through more than a dozen characters, including Laura and her family, as well as students and faculty, each of whom speaks with a distinctive voice. Laura's problems take a startling and tragic turn when her mother forbids her to attend the senior prom.” Glenn uses poetry to weave the story together while creating characters that illustrate typical students in a high school.

     Voya says, “Glenn's characters are realistic, with poignant and interesting personal stories, ably demonstrating how and why reading is absent—or present—in their lives.”  Readers learn about the characters by what they say about themselves and each other.  We learn about Laura’s wild side from Tyesha Hicks who sees Laura at a club. We also see the good side she presents at school. There is foreshadowing that Laura Li will take her own life in the poem by Carl Snider at the end of the third section.  Carl substitutes Laura in a well-known poem called “Richard Cory” by Edwin Arlington Robinson.  In “Richard Cory” everyone looks at Richard and envies him but he goes home one day and kills himself.  Laura Li is envied but no one really knows what she is thinking and feeling.  She lives a double life of good girl, bad girl.  One day she overdoses on pills.

     This book has an unusual format.  It has a prologue, epilogue and sections divided by Public Address Announcements.  In the prologue the Li family is introduced and the reader learns the dynamics of the Li family. Laura is expected to take care of her brother who has something wrong with him.  Her mother is old-fashioned brought up in the Chinese tradition and does not like Western ways.  Her father is always gone and does not know his daughter. The Public Address Announcement sections signal which part of the story they contain; The library is now open, Students and Teachers are encouraged to use the library during their free periods, and The library is now closed.  The epilogue concerns the feelings of the people closest to Laura after she is dead.

     The unique voices of the characters and how they are connected reveal the split image of the main character, the conforming side and the rebellious side that will stay with the reader long after the story ends.

 

Janeczko, Paul B.  2002.  Seeing the Blue Between: 

     Advice and Inspiration for Young Poets. 

     Cambridge:  Candlewick Press.  ISBN:  0763608816.

 

  Janeczko has put together an intriguing selection of poems from thirty-two award-winning poets that appeal to young adults.  Seeing the Blue Between contains poems from Joesph Bruchac, Siv Cdering, Kalli Dakos, Michael Dugan, Robert Farnsworth, Ralph Fletcher, and Douglas Florian to name a few.  Especially fascinating is the letters by the poets about how they write poetry and where they get their ideas.  These letters encourage young people who may feel that they cannot write poetry or have nothing to say that they have a voice and they need to write it down to have it heard. Donelson says about Janeczko “Besides having an uncanny ability to select poems that appeal to teenagers Janeczko organizes the books so that one poem leads into the next one.” There is cohesiveness to the poems and advice. Beverly Fahey from Children’s Literature feels, “As an anthology, this is an excellent variety of poetry from some of today's most respected poets, but when you add the motivational words of wisdom, the result is a superior book.”

     There is a table of contents to help the reader find the poet and poetry.  It is arranged in alphabetical order by the author’s last name.  The book also contains notes on the poet who contributed their advice and poetry, an index of first lines, and acknowledgments.

     About the contents of this collection Lucy Schall for VOYA says, “Informative, fun, and motivating, this compilation of letters and poems from thirty-two published poets offers intellectually and emotionally accessible experiences, advice, and models to all writers—but to poets in particular. Both prose and poems have wide appeal. Joseph Bruchac opens the collection by telling how his teacher discouraged him from writing poetry because Bruchac was a wrestler. Kristine O'Connell George, who penned the title poem, explains how science influences her writing. Kalli Dakos's "I'd Mark with the Sunshine" will have every student whose papers have bled with red pen cheering. The poets skillfully exhibit their suggestions. Jack Prelutsky's hilarious "Euphonica Jarre" demonstrates the blend of comedy techniques he recommends—exaggeration, transformation, and absurdity. Michael Dugan, Lee Bennett Hopkins, and Marilyn Singer shape their letters of advice into poems. Like Janet S. Wong, Liz Rosenberg, and Nikki Grimes, many of these poets not only advocate drawing on experience and developing a heightened awareness but also emphasize combining perspiration with inspiration—learning as much as possible, expressing thoughts accurately, and revising constantly.” Beverly Fahey says about the overall theme of the book, “Over and over the message is clear; only readers become writers. Young poets are admonished to keep a notebook for recording their thoughts and to be prepared to edit, refine, rewrite, and read, read, read."  This book with its advice will help young poets or anyone who loves poetry to see the possibilities.

Gallo, Donald.  1997.  No Easy Answers:  Short Stories

     About Teenagers Making Tough Choices.  New

     York:  Delacorte Press.  ISBN: 0385322909.

 

 

     No Easy Answers is an appealing collection of sixteen short stories about real problems that adolescents face everyday.  Each story was written specifically for this collection.  School Library Journal says, “This collection of stories is intended to illustrate some of the moral choices facing teenagers today. Issues include computer blackmail, peer pressure, and self-censorship.”

     The stories are divided among different subtitles such as, How Did I Get Myself into This, It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time, What Do I Do Now, How Do I Get Myself Out of This, and I’m Sorry. Roxy Ekstrom from VOYA says about Gallo and this collection, “He has shown his mastery at soliciting attention-grabbing short stories from the cream of the crop among YA authors.” Most of these award-winning authors whose short stories are included in this collection have in common their books being named Best Books for Young Adults by the American Library Association.  Included in this list are Will Weaver, Louise Plummer, T. Ernesto Bethancourt, M.E. Kerr, Ron Koertge, Monica Hughes, Virginia Euwer Wolff, Jean Davies Okimoto, Lensey Namioka, Walter Dean Myers, David Klass, Rita Williams-Garcia, Alden R. Carter, and Graham Salisbury.

     Ekstrom also suggests a use for these stories, “Teachers and youth group leaders will find these stories to be a great springboard for discussion. Young adults will find them great reads.”  According to Donelson, “Through reading the larger number of short stories, they (students) can meet a greater variety of viewpoints and representatives of different ethnic groups and cultures.  Because the best of modern American authors have written short stories, students can experience high-quality writing in pieces that are short enough for comfortable reading.” This collection written by award-winning authors may encourage reluctant readers to try reading their novels.

     After each short story Gallo includes a brief essay on the author and his/her other works for which he/she has won awards.  The essay sometimes describes where the author got the idea to write the short story.

     The theme of this collection of stories is choices young people can make whether good or bad.   Kirkus Review says, “The unifying theme is somewhat unwieldy—few stories or novels for this audience are not about teenagers making "tough choices," and the lessons sometimes loom so large that they get in the way of the stories. This is still an honest, sturdy collection; it poses complicated questions and allows readers to search for the answers in some very good company.”  Gallo says of the purpose of the stories, “But whether the outcome is positive or negative, these stories will cause the readers to think about the alternatives and weigh the consequences of their own actions.” The reader will ponder over these questions long after the book is finished.

 

Source:

Donelson, Kenneth L. and Alleen Pace Nilsen.  2005.

     Literature for Today’s Young Adults.  7th ed. 

     Boston:  Pearson.  ISBN:  0205410359.

 

 

 

 

 

 

    

 

This website completed as a requirement for
LS  5623 Advanced Literature for Young Adults
Texas Woman's University
Denton, TX
by
J. Ketola