Review of I Remember: Poems and Pictures of Heritage

I Remember: Poems and Pictures of Heritage
compiled by Lee Bennett Hopkins; illus. by various artists
Intermediate    Lee & Low    60 pp.    g
9/19    978-1-62014-311-7    $19.95

Fourteen writers contribute poems that speak to their ethnic heritage. A full-page illustration by a different artist accompanies each piece, with much varie­ty to ensure wide appeal. The poems, too, range in type, from more traditional rhyme schemes (“My Quinceañera” by Guadalupe García McCall) to conversational pieces (“Amazing Auntie Anne” by Cynthia Leitich Smith) to stream of consciousness (“Here’s What I Remember” by Kwame Alexander). Certain oft-seen themes crop up, such as the importance of extended family, whose “hidden roots still give you strength” (“Rez Road” by Joseph Bruchac). Margarita Engle writes, in “La visita,” that during visits with her abuelita, she would not only learn to embroider but would “begin to feel like a wise old cubana / while she becomes young and American.” While many writers celebrate their differences, others note difficulties: Nick Bruel describes the challenge of having to check just one ethnicity box on a form, while Janet Wong describes a classmate’s taunts to “say something Korean.” The placement of page-turns amidst multipage poems, and with interspersed full-page illustrations, may occasionally cause confusion. But the art itself — by sixteen illustrators including Simone Shin, Sean Qualls, and Michele Wood (and with artist statements accompanying each one) — is compelling enough that viewers will enjoy seeing what those page-turns bring. Chock-full of information, this multifaceted collection invites repeated perusal. Appended with brief contributor bios featuring current and childhood photos.

From the January/February 2020 Horn Book Magazine.

Julie Hakim Azzam
Julie Hakim Azzam
Julie Hakim Azzam teaches in the English department at the University of Pittsburgh. While her academic specialization is on literature from Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia, she has a passion for children’s literature and has been interviewing children’s authors for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for many years.

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