Glenn, Mel. 1997. Jump ball, a basketball season in poems. New York, NY: Lodestar Books. ISBN: 0-525-67554-X.
This book was my first experience, rather than epic poetry, in reading a book of poems that told a story rather than being gathered or written around a central theme. While I was able to figure out the ending way ahead, I couldn't put it down for my desire to read the thoughts and dreams of the team members. Mel Glenn has written through his poetry a poignant story of a basketball team with dreams of the state championship. His ability to get into the minds and thoughts of YA youth is very apparent along with the capable handling of a theme that will easily interest teenage boys. The School Library Journal expresses the long list of topics as " teenage crushes, pregnancy, homelessness, and the glamorization of athletes are all examined here." Indeed they are and thus the wide appeal to young adults. This was a refreshing read about athletes and young adults united in the realm of poetry.
Janeczko, Paul B. 2002. Seeing the blue between, advice and inspiration for young poets. Cambridge, Mass.: Candlewick Press. ISBN: 0-7636-0881-5.
Having read this book of poetry for a previous class, I took a different angle on this unique collection of works from a wide variety of poets. On my first read, I delighted in the poetry itself. On this read I spent more time on the advice the poets were giving to the readers on writing poetry. The best comment, in my opinion, came from X. J. Kennedy who gave the following tidbit of information: "Poems, unlike most book reports, are made out of feelings. So it isn't enough just to write about what you know. You have to find something you know that you deeply care about." This definition clearly states the added dimension of poetry. This book becomes a source for students and teachers as they jointly explore the wonders and feelings as well as the feel of poetry. Publisher's Weekly comments on the "words of encouragement" that are given by the many poets represented here. This is a unique and user friendly text on poetry and the ways poets think of their writing.
Gallo, Donald R. 1989. Connections: short stories by outstanding writers for young adults. New York, NY: Delacorte Press. ISBN: 0-385-29815-3.
Donald Gallo has compiled two other volumes prior to this of short stories. This one has the central theme of romance, even though he did not ask that of the authors. He just asked that they avoid death as a previous book had dealt with that so much. Each of the stories was written by the authors for this book and not published elsewhere first. The stories are all universally appealing to young adults and beyond. This collection, due to its content of a variety of fresh perspectives on romance, is captivating to the reader. The ability to see into the lives of these young adults and to read as they sort out their lives is very well-done. The School Library Journal recommends "this superb collection" for instant appeal to young adults and also to reluctant readers. I concur heartily with this opinion as I was drawn to read each story to find the surprises and conflicts that they held.
Rylant, Cynthia. 1994. Something permanent. Walker Evans, photographer. New York, NY: Harcourt Brace & Company. ISBN: 0-15-277090-9.
While the photographs by Walker Evans give us another primary source relating to the years of the Great Depression, Cynthia Rylant has made the central themes of hope, love and poverty more real through her poems. The beautiful and heartfelt expression of ordinary, everyday people going through a terrible time brings this part of history closer to anyone, older or younger, who turns the pages and hears the words Cynthia found in each picture. This unique combination can not only reach the heart, it can teach poetry and history to those who read and feel the pages. This also is a unique tool for teachers to use in both social studies and in language arts. Taking pictures and writing down a poem about the feelings you get from the picture can give many students the nudge they need to delve into the world of feelings and thus poetry. Publisher's Weekly capsulizes this work as one that "hones in on the human heart."
EXTRA CREDIT - Audiocassette listening experience.
Block, Francesca Lia. 1989/1996. Weetzie bat. Alyssa Bresnahan, narrator. Prince Frederick, MD: Recorded Books, Inc. ISBN: 0-7887-0601-2.
Steeped in a fairy tale atmosphere, Ms. Block deals with teen sex, pregnancy, and homosexual love. Weetzie Bat lives in a fairy tale version of L.A. with her three male roommates, one she considers her mate. Delving in to the three wishes idea of traditional fairy tales, the reader will find anything but tradition in the flowery scenery and characters presented in this story. School Library Journal describes this book as "a brief, off-beat tale that has great charm, poignancy, and touches of fantasy." As the reader rides the rollercoaster of good and bad times, Weetzie Bat exudes her love of L.A., people and her child, born by her and one of her homosexual roommates. While I listened to this book on tape, and I was very pleased with the narrator, I was able to close my eyes and immerse myself in the descriptions and use of language. This was indeed an interesting book to listen to but I don't think I would try driving and listening as it took all of my attention. I'll know more about audio books after my next three that I have on hand. Part of the plan is to develop the skill needed for the audio presentation. For a first time I found it enthralling.