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Review of Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets

Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets
by Kwame Alexander with Chris Colderley and Marjory Wentworth; illus. by Ekua Holmes
Intermediate, Middle School, High School    Candlewick    50 pp.
3/17    978-0-7636-8094-7    $16.99

The title of this innovative poetry collection comes from Lucille Clifton, who wrote, “Poems come out of wonder, not out of knowing.” Twenty poems written by Alexander, Colderley, and Wentworth, each one “celebrating” another notable poet, are divided into three sections: “Got Style,” “In Your Shoes,” and “Thank You.” The poems in the first section pay tribute to highlighted poets by mimicking their styles. For instance, “Jazz Jive Jam” honors Langston Hughes: “On Saturday, my mama sang / a song that sounded blue. / Then Daddy made his trumpet cry— / I guess the rent is due.” “In Your Shoes” incorporates the feelings and themes of the select poets (e.g., Walter Dean Myers’s love of basketball), while the last section acknowledges and thanks particular poets. “No Idle Days,” about William Carlos Williams, refers to him as “a trendsetter / and a rule breaker / crafting / a new American voice // for people who / carry their plums / in brown / paper bags.” The celebrated poets here include Bashō, Rumi, Emily Dickinson, Gwendolyn Brooks, Chief Dan George, Pablo Neruda, Sandra Cisneros, and Billy Collins and represent a wide range of cultures and time periods. Holmes’s vibrant, arresting mixed-media collages, both full pages and double-page spreads, complement and extend the themes and rich imagery presented in the poems. Educators and librarians searching for books to introduce children to influential poets as well as model texts for writing poetry will welcome this stellar title. The book concludes with biographical information on the poets and a list placing each poet within his or her era.

From the May/June 2017 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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About Jonda McNair

Jonda C. McNair, a former elementary school teacher of students in grades K-2, is a professor of literacy education at Clemson University in South Carolina.

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