Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Poetry Month

Interested in poetry, but not sure what's good? April is National Poetry Month, and fortunately, there are many wonderful books to introduce a newbie to the very old world of poetry.

The Making of a Poem: A Northon Anthology of Poetic Forms

by Mark Strand & Eavan Boland
(821.008 MAKING)

Ever wondered if anyone still writes sonnets, or why sonnets were so popular with Shakespeare? This book focuses on different poetic forms such as the sonnet, the villanelle, the ballad, and blank verse to name a few.

What makes this book so cool is how it breaks down the explanation of each form. Each form is described at a glance: basic traits, meters, and rules. Then a history of the form's use and how it came to be is given, and finally, the contemporary context, or how poets today use the form, is given along with plenty of poetry examples.

Going over the forms like this made them so much more assessible for me. For example, the villanelle has been really popular in the twentieth century. Villanelles, because of the repetitive structure, are known to be ideal for expressing grief and pain. For a century that began with not one, but two World Wars and moved on to the Cold War and other acts of personal and global violence, the villanelle makes sense as a popular poetic form.

Poet's Choice

by Edward Hirsch
(808.81 HIRSCH)

Poet's choice is a collection of essays from Hirsch's weekly Washington Post column about poetry. Hirsch deals with a variety of topics and poets, including Reading, W. B. Yeats, Christmas Poems, Pablo Neruda, Protest Poetry, William Carlos Williams, and prose poetry. The book is divided into two sections: international poetry and American poetry. Each chapter is only two-three pages long, so these are just quick introductions to each topic and poet. This is a book to dip into, flip some pages and dip again. It's a great way to learn about new poets and poetry at the same time.

Friday, April 18, 2008

The White Darkness: a novel, by Geraldine McCaughrean

Symone, Sym for short, is a thirteen year old girl from England, who has such a hard time at school with her peers that she has created a fantasy life. It started when she watched an old television series called “The Last Place on Earth” that dramatizes Robert Scott’s ill-fated 1912 expedition to the South Pole. She already knew about Antarctica because her Uncle Victor had loaded her with books on the subject since she was small. Something about the series mesmerizes her, and especially the actor playing Titus Oates, one of Scott's party. He has become her constant companion, her soul mate, who encourages her when she’s afraid, keeps her going when all looks dark.

And she needs someone like that after Sym and her crazy uncle go down into Antarctica, first on a deluxe adventure tour that turns into a more personal and much more dangerous quest than she or you could ever imagine. Although the book is very engaging and you can’t help but be enthralled by each crazy plot development, I could not believe in her “mind” person/friend. I just don’t buy an available “alternate universe”, at least not one that materializes so conveniently exactly when you need it. But the book is worth reading, despite this quibble.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Keeping Score

Keeping Score

by Linda Sue Park

(J Fic Park)

Maggie is a huge fan of the Brooklyn Dodgers. The year is 1953, and she like everyone else in her neighborhood follows the games religiously. Jim, a new recruit at the local fire station, proves to be a good friend despite his being a Giants fan. He teaches her how to keep score of all of the plays during a baseball game. Soon Maggie is developing extra notations to keep track of the plays that interest her. When Jim is drafted to fight in the Korean War, Maggie applies her new skills as a Baseball statistician to help herself understand the conflict. Maggie sends Jim letters every month, but then Jim's answering letters stop coming. No one will tell Maggie what is happening. Is there a way for Maggie to help Jim?

Maggie is a great character. Despite her brother's frequently condescending attitude about her interest in baseball, she doesn't get discouraged. Instead she finds a way all her own to enjoy the sport that she loves. When her friend is hurt, she applies that same tenacity to finding ways to help him. There are several really good supporting characters in this book including Maggie's mother and best friend. The book includes several author notes both about baseball and about the War in Korea that add interest to the story.

Though I'm not at all a sports fan, I love stories about sports. Maybe it is the tension and conflict? This was such a fun book to read. I'm even thinking of trying to learn to keep score during a baseball game just because this book made it sound so interesting--and I'm horrible at math!