I am a Cybils second round judge. I am currently reading the all the nominated books in a fun "armchair readalong" way with the first round judges. My reviews and opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the work of the committee.
How I Discovered Poetry Marilyn Nelson
Traveling Light (Smoky Hill AFB, Kansas, 1956)
In memory, Pudgy is just a tail
brushing my thighs as we surveyed the shelves
in the icebox. “Pudgy,” Daddy explained,
“went to live with a different family;
she’s fed and happy.” Lady welcomed us
to one Officer’s Housing, where she lived
under our unit. She was a good dog.
She seemed almost sad when we drove away
behind the moving van. And General
did have a knack for causing us trouble:
He dug up gardens, dragged whole clotheslines home.
“He’ll be happier with his new family,”
Daddy explains. We’ve been transferred again.
We stand numb as he gives away our toys.
This is a beautiful collection of unrhymed sonnets exploring life growing up on a series of military bases--a child of one of the few black officers. It explores so well the pain of growing up coupled with the pain of moving every few years, always saying goodbye, always trying to fit in with a new group of kids--sometimes made even harder by racial differences.
It’s a sparse book--only 50 sonnets--but packs a punch. Inevitably it will be compared to the other memoir-in-verse that came out this year, Brown Girl Dreaming, and I fear it will be overshadowed by it, which is sad, because this one is so good and so lovely.
It’s also wonderfully illustrated by Hadley Hooper in black-and-white drawings (maybe prints?) occasionally accented with muted goldenrod or blue.
Now, how do I feel about it as Cybils book? This one’s interesting… it’s a nomination in both YA nonfiction and in Poetry. I think it’s an outstanding choice, and strong contender for poetry, I do not think it’s a strong choice for YA Nonfiction. If nothing else, her author’s note states: “I prefer to call the girl in the poems ‘the Speaker,’ not ‘me.’ Although the poems describe a girl whose life is very much like mine, the incidents the poems describe are not entirely or exactly ‘memories.’ They are sometimes much enhanced by research and imagination.” So, a wonderful book that everyone should read, but not the right book for this award.
Book Provided by... my local library
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