Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Nonfiction: A Plethora of Subtitles

Diane Siebert's Tour America: A Journey Through Poems and Art was an interesting collection of poems about places around the United States. This is a decently long book (26 poems of varying length), and will work well for the poetry unit that our 8th grade does. The illustrations make this an especially attractive volume, but I appreciated the fact that Siebert used rhyme and meter in her poems. I was particularly take with her "Cadillac Ranch: Texas": "Graffitied, rusted, dented hulks, they hint of days long gone;/Around them, far-flung fields reach out to meet the dusk and dawn".


A little too short and elementary was Laurie Purdie Salas' Lettuce Introduce You: Poems About Food. This is horrible, but one thing I look for is poems that are at least forty words long, so that students can memorize them. There were only one or two that long. The pictures will make students hungry, and there is a wide variety of types of poems represented in this volume; about half rhyme. Okay for elementary school, but I'm not sad that Fuzzy Fast Blur: Poems about Pets was canceled from my order.

A Battle of the Books title was Sid Fleischman's The Trouble Begins at 8: A Life of Mark Twain in the Wild, Wild West. I'm not a Fleischman Fan, but this was okay. Fairly well illustrated, short, informative, and to the point. The anecdotes about Twain's early life are amusing, and given the amount of white space on the page, this would be a good biography for even reluctant readers. I should have liked this one more than I did, because it really was well-done.

Maybe I was distracted by Winchell's Good Girls, Good Food and Good Fun: The Story of USO Hostesses During World War II. This is not really a book suitable for school collections because of the sheer density of the prose (it's written by a college professor) and the concentration of discussion about sexual mores during WWII, but it was interesting. I would love to see Penny Colman do a treatment of this topic ala Rosie the Riveter, with more pictures and information that high school students could use for reports on the home front, because the times were so different, and I think it is good for people to remember that yes, not that long ago, women did not leave the house wearing slacks.

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