A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
What's the story?
In a series of free-verse and other forms of poems, Lonnie, having lost his parents four years ago in a fire when he was seven years old, tells about his life. He is separated from his sister and living in a foster home with an elderly woman, Miss Edna. He loves his sister, but sees her infrequently, as her new parents don't like boys. But Ms. Marcus, his teacher, tells him he has a gift, and encourages him to express his thoughts and feelings in writing.
Is it any good?
Woodson creates a voice that is lyrical, yet seamless and real, and packs a surprising amount of intellectual and emotional material into this short, simple book.
Writing novels in free verse has become quite a trend since Out of the Dust won the Newbery Award. It's a form that can be awkward and even silly if not handled well, and too often the form and subject don't match, making the reader wonder why the author chose to write the story this way. But rarely, if ever, have form and subject matched as perfectly as they do here.
The reason for the poetry is part of the story -- it starts as assignments from a fifth-grade teacher, and then takes on a life of its own as Lonnie discovers his talent -- and his voice. He has suffered great loss, but his life is improving, and his chronicle of past and present is powerfully poignant as he tries out a number of poetic forms, and comments on the art of writing as well as his life and thoughts.