Book Review: American Street

American Street by Ibi Zoboi is a coming of age novel that will work well for grades 9-12. Fabiola Toussaint, the protagonist grew up in Haiti and hasn’t spent a day away from her mother. Their plan was to move to America and live with her aunt and her cousins in Detroit. Unfortunately, Fabiola was allowed in the country, but her mother was detained.
Fabiola is thrust into a world she doesn’t understand with people she barely knows. She thought that her life was rough in Haiti, but Detroit is full of violence, crime, and drugs. Fabiola is trying to help her mother, but can she also help her family with all of their issues? This heart-wrenching book is well-written and depicts the struggles that immigrants face including assimilation. Can one adapt to a new environment, and hold onto their own cultural identity? The characters are authentic and believable. The novel is emotionally-intense at times. Anyone who is into culturally diverse urban books would like this novel. The book contains some strong language. This novel would make a great addition to a high school classroom library. 

Poetry Books to Inspire a Love of Poetry

The announcement of a poetry unit may elicit groans from your students, but when we start to broaden our view of poetry beyond the classical ballads and patterned rhymes, our students may learn to appreciate even love the genre. Add these poetry books to inspire a love of poetry to your shelves, and watch your students find a newfound appreciation for poetic verse.

Tupac (2Pac) was a well-known rapper until he lost his life by gang violence at the age of 25. His music has lived on, but what’s even more impressive is his poetry. Without the explicit lyrics of some of his rap songs, The Rose that Grew from Concrete provides a look a personal metaphorical poems that students can use to inspire their own lyric poetry. Images of rough drafts in the poet’s own handwriting help your students understand poetry writing as a creative process. Show your students that poetry is modern, filled with voice, and that music is poetry! Try using the SIFT strategy mentioned in this blog post to analyze the title poem, “The Rose that Grew from Concrete.” You’ll be surprised with what your students come up with!

Love that Dog by Sharon Creech 

You can introduce your students to classic poets like Robert Frost, William Blake, and William Carlos Williams without having them scratch their heads in confusion. Jack, the main character in Love that Dog learns to connect with poetry (which he does not like in the beginning) through a personal event in his own life. He writes versions of popular poems he learns about in school. Use the text to show the models of these famous poems, and have your students write their own versions, just like Jack did.

Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein 

Although Silverstein’s poetry books may seem a little elementary, I’ve never met a secondary student that couldn’t appreciate Shel Silverstein’s fun rhymes, imagery, and quirky speakers. Bringing back some of their childhood favorites will help them remember what they loved about poetry as a younger student. Use some of the rhymes to teach literary concepts like point of view, similes, and personification. You may also focus on imagery by having students draw new illustrations to go with their favorite poem. Silverstein poems are also perfect to practice recitation and memorization. One of the first texts I memorized as a child was from Where the Sidewalk Ends!

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson 

For students that love to read novels or narrative nonfiction, verse novels are one way to introduce poetry. Woodson tells the story of her life through verse in this powerful memoir that earned her a Newbery Award and National Book Award. The story begins in the 1960s, a time of racial inequality and segregation in the South. Woodson’s story is relevant still today and is a powerful way to teach real, authentic narrative poetry. Poetry books are not just textbook anthologies filled with hard to understand language and iambic pentameter. Beautiful free verse poems, lyrics from musicians and artists, and novel length memoirs and narratives are some poetry books to inspire a love of poetry with your secondary students. Try some of these titles out in your classroom.


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