Review of Jabberwalking

by Juan Felipe Herrera
Middle School, High School    Candlewick    138 pp.
3/18    978-1-5362-0140-6    $22.99
Paper ed.  978-0-7636-9264-3    $14.99

In a loose and jazzy style (and with a nod to Lewis Carroll), the former U.S. Poet Laureate offers instructions for “Jabberwalking,” or writing poetry while in motion: “You have to move fast! / Move, move, move — with your Jabber paper pad in arm and hand — well, most of all with your Jabber, Jabber — your burbles — whatever pours out of your bubbly burrito head.” The volume is divided into amusingly titled chapters (“[The Incredible Chapter Uno] [The Grumbling and Most Gratifying Chapter Doce]”) and it weaves elements of the poet’s day-to-day life (e.g., walking his dog, Lotus) with writing advice and recollection of a Washington, DC, plane trip to the Library of Congress, during which he writes nonstop until he has an “ALMOST-BOOK!” His punctuation, spacing on the page, and freehand drawings all send the message of encouraging young writers to let their words flow unstopped by convention or constraints, and to allow themselves to jump around and go on tangents and not worry about it: “A Jabber poem is a fast poem, remember? A wild poem. An unkempt, messy, dirty poem.” An enticing explosion of paint colors on the book jacket and a lot of white space on the large square pages will help sell this to teens who might not think of themselves as poets.

From the May/June 2018 issue of The Horn Book Magazine: Special Issue: Making a Difference.
Susan Dove Lempke
Susan Dove Lempke
Susan Dove Lempke is a Horn Book reviewer and director of the Niles Public Library District in Illinois.

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