Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Poetry Book Review: LIVES: Poems About Famous Americans

LIVES: Poems About Famous Americans

Selected by: Lee Bennett Hopkins

Illustrated by: Leslie Staub

Published by: HarperCollins Publishers, 1999

ISBN: 0-06-027767-X

Awards/Recognitions: Notable Children's Trade Books in the Field of Social Studies 2000, National Council for Social Studies & Children's Book Council


This volume of poetry is rich with history, focusing on sixteen individuals who contributed to the history of our country in a significant way. Through fourteen poems, twelve especially written for this book, readers learn about the mark these important individuals left behind.

My Thoughts About this Book:

As a self-proclaimed American history nerd, this book was a treasure to me. I felt drawn to each poem, and was totally lost in the words describing these important Americans. I enjoyed the variety of historical figures used in the collection. From writers (Langston Hughes) to sports celebrities (Babe Ruth) to presidents (Abraham Lincoln), the people highlighted in this book help bring American history to life for any reader. Well known poets (Jane Yolen, Nikki Grimes) create verses that truly capture each individual and their unique contributions to our history and culture. There are a variety of poetic styles for the reader to experience throughout the book. Each poem's subject speaks to the reader with a clear voice and allows the reader to get a feel for the subject's personality and character. Since each poem does relate in some way to a historic event or person, the works are timeless and will have meaning to any future generation.

The illustrations by Leslie Staub are an added bonus, allowing the reader to picture each individual as they read the poems. This book is one that any young history enthusiast should be exposed to again and again.

Review Excerpt:

From School Library Journal: There is a good balance of men and women represented as well as a variety of personalities from Eleanor Roosevelt and Rosa Parks to Neil Armstrong and Langston Hughes. Hopkins's eloquent introduction praises the power of poetry. A winning combination of poems and illustrations.

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