Review: A Poem for Peter

A Poem for Peter
A Poem for Peter by Andrea Davis Pinkney
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Just a whoosh of goosebumps and emotions when I opened this book.

I remember reading The Snowy Day. When I was small, I loved Peter. I loved that Peter lived in an apartment building, like I did. Picture books always had houses, with windows two up and two down, daisies out front, and a dog in the back yard. No one I knew lived like that. I didn’t learn to identify any flowers until I was an adult, and we weren’t allowed to have pets. Keats showed my world, and I was grateful. It was not until I was an adult that I learned how unusual and important it was that Keats’ main character was an African-American child. (I certainly didn’t know that Keats was Jewish and that his family were Polish immigrants.)

Told as a poem-letter to Peter, this book is beautiful and informative. It tells a story about having talent and a dream, of wanting your work to feed souls as well as your belly, and about how kids who have teachers and parents who see their spark and kindle it have a chance to become what they dream of being.

I was in tears by the end of this short book. Given the rhetoric of our recent election, children need to see all kinds of kids on the page, even if (maybe especially if) they do not see one another in their neighborhoods.

Part of me wanted to keep this book for myself; I knew it needed to go into the circulating collection of our public library. (Thank you, YSBR.)

The audience for this book is slightly older than the usual picture book crowd. It could be used in elementary school story times with Keats’ other works, especially those discussed in the poem, as part of an author study.

For upper elementary students, the book provides an introduction to some major historical names and events of the past century: Great Depression, Art Students’ League, WPA, racism, and anti-Semitism – Concepts they can investigate further.

I would also recommend this for people new to collection development, and for anyone who wants to be bolstered up in their conviction that it is important for our collections to be reflective of the wider populace.

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Review: You’ll Grow Out of It

You'll Grow Out of It
You’ll Grow Out of It by Jessi Klein
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

If you are listening to the audiobook, go ahead and skip disk 2. Really.

The book jacket blurb about being a tom-man (what tomboys are -not- supposed to grow up to be) was smart and funny and so relatable. I thought it was going to be a humorous look at a woman who doesn’t fit stereotypical ideas of femininity but is badass and totally okay about it. It’s not.

From the publisher’s website:
‘As both a tomboy and a late bloomer, comedian Jessi Klein grew up feeling more like an outsider than a participant in the rites of modern femininity.

In YOU’LL GROW OUT OF IT, Klein offers-through an incisive collection of real-life stories-a relentlessly funny yet poignant take on a variety of topics she has experienced along her strange journey to womanhood and beyond. These include her “transformation from Pippi Longstocking-esque tomboy to are-you-a-lesbian-or-what tom man . . .”

That essay and the one about women claiming to love baths because they are the one place where no one will bother them for anything: “This is why Virginia Woolf stressed the importance of having a room of one’s own. If you don’t fight for it, don’t insist on it and don’t sacrifice for it, you might end up in that increasingly tepid water, pruning and sweating while you dream of other things.”

The rest of the book, about underwear and waxing and having a bad time on expensive vacations and moaning about not having a boyfriend and feeling bad about her looks – Is this the 1970s? Klein is a clever professional woman with a great career and she has nothing more to talk about? Sad sad sad. This was not for me. I feel really bad about not liking this because, it turns out, we went to the same high school. I would like her so much if she just liked herself a little!

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