A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this follow-up to Shakespeare Bats Cleanup may be written in free verse, but it reads like a story, with great dialogue, frequent humor, and a little romance. Kevin and his father are still adjusting to the death of Kevin's mother and this book shows a young male teen overcoming adversity in a positive way.
What's the story?
When 14-year-old Kevin's mother became terminally ill, writing poetry became a refuge for him. Nearly a year later, Kevin and his dad are still grieving the loss of Kevin's mother, and the gift of a new notebook inspires him to resume writing. Most of his entries are in free verse, some are emails, but the form is less important than the reflection and self-expression his journal allows him as he grapples with changes in his life. His baseball team has made it to the playoffs, so his life is busy with school, practice, and games. His girlfriend doesn't like baseball (and she thinks blank verse means a poem about nothing), his dad wants to start dating, and he still misses his mom. When he meets an interesting girl at a poetry reading, things begin to get more complicated.
Is it any good?
Funny poems will engage readers even while they are effortlessly learning the difference between writing a pantoum and a sestina. The humor also breaks the tension as Kevin learns his dad is ready to start dating again, and he meets one of his father's prospects. This book stands alone, but readers who missed the first one -- Shakespeare Bats Cleanup (2003) -- may want to read it, too.
It's a great time in history when a 14-year-old boy can play in left field and take part in a poetry slam the same day. Koertge's character, Kevin, displays the strengths and vulnerabilities of a typical teen, but his writing allows him to reveal his deeper feelings both to himself and to the reader. Each entry reads as a brief episode, some as emails, which keeps the story fast paced. An all-star cast includes two romantic interests who are both strong girl characters.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about loss: How difficult would it be to see your dad trying to date?
Kevin and his dad give each other a lot of space; what do you like about the way they treat each other?
Kevin seems to like Mira for some superficial reasons. Is that how most middle school romances are? What is it that makes Amy so appealing?
Do you have a favorite poet? What about songwriter? Do you think song lyrics can be poetry?
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