A Road Long and Straight Then a Curve


Thursday was a snow day. It was a snow day I didn’t want, but maybe it was a snow day I needed despite Winter Break just ending on Tuesday. On my unexpected day away from school, I watched a little television, I read a lot of pages, and I started thinking about how my 7th grade poetry unit should build upon my 6th grade poetry unit. I really dig poetry.

Do you want to know a secret? Years ago I was the excellent student sitting in a high school English class thinking Gatsby was overrated, Bovary was uninteresting, and that the two idiots waiting for Godot should be slathered with raw meat and locked in a box with a hungry tiger. I was the calculus for the win kid who wrote a paper comparing Dante’s Inferno to supercalifragilisticexpialidocious because back then I found the deconstructive and, at times, destructive nature of literary analysis absurd, unnecessary, and unacceptable. Also, I was too smart by half. Also, mockery was . . . is a speciality of mine. I was the math and science kid who loved reading what I wanted to read, but resented whole class assigned reading-Native Son was my Waterloo (I lost my crackers and was sent to the office). In the midst of my disdain and outrage there was poetry. There was always poetry. It soothed my savagery.

Poetry spoke to something secret within me. It spoke to the secret self that whispers to you late at night when you let your mind go wherever it wants. When you let your mind dare to think and say words you would never utter in the light. The first stories I wrote were in verse. The secrets I told my journal were in verse. My fears. My loves. My lies. My truths. My anger. My pain. My light. My darkness. All in verse. When my sister was sick. When I felt misunderstood. When my heart really and truly broke for the very first time. When I ran away from a love so big. When I ran back. When motherhood seemed bigger and better than anything I had or will ever do. I wrote it all. I wrote it in verse. Poetry holds a passion prose never will.

I want to give the credit for my love of poetry to Dickinson because I was her loaded gun in the corner of a classroom waiting for something, some bit of required reading to carry me away. Although, the credit for my love of verse probably goes to Silverstein or Prelutsky. Who am I kidding? It was most likely the rhymes of Mother Goose. I still have my battered childhood copy.

Eventually that pesky required reading of prose started to speak to me-thank you Ethan Frome. It didn’t speak loudly enough to keep this math and science kid from starting college as an engineering major, but how I got from there to here is another story for another day. Here being a math a science kid with a Bachelors and Masters in English-nothing but required reading and literary analysis. Can you believe the point of all of this was to say that crafting a poetry unit is pure pleasure for me? Or is it.

I managed to craft the barebones of a poetry unit outline on my snow day, and I’m excited. It feels fresh and new-just like 2018. All I need to do now is flush it out and wait. When the first flowers of almost spring dare to wriggle above ground I’ll unleash my poetry unit upon my 7th graders. Until that day, I’ll wait and wriggle and wriggle and wait.

Waiting is a special feeling. It’s a little pure and a little naughty like trying to sleep on Christmas Eve so Christmas morning comes “faster,” but also wanting to keep an ear open for Santa. You might even go as far as trying to sleep on a staircase landing with your mom’s old Polaroid camera hidden in the crook of your arm to catch the jolly old elf in the act - again, another story for another day.

Truthfully, it isn’t really the waiting that thrills it’s the anticipation. Remember the episode of the Simpsons where Marge met Jacques? No?! Really?! Well, Jacques said something wonderfully profound, “To the most beautiful moment in life. Better than the deed. Better than the memory. The moment of anticipation.” There is something sweet and delicious about those moments of anticipation. Certainly the deed is outstanding, and absolutely the memory is heady, but holy cow and gee whiz anticipation is the real rush.

Deed, memory, and anticipation is how I feel about poetry. Here comes the sudden curve. It’s also how I feel about all of the middle grade and YA books waiting to be discovered in 2018. Did you see that coming?

I took the long way around, but here is a list with a few comments of my most anticipated books of 2018-for now. In fact, let’s call it a very short list.

My Most Anticipated Books of 2018 . . . For Now - A Very Short List

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton - The cover? Have you seen the cover? The blurb? Have you read the blurb? Then why are you still here?

Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson - Private boarding school, secrets, lies, mystery, and murder. I’m here for this.

Love, Hate, and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed - Hearing Samira Ahmed speak at the ALAN workshop was galvanizing. She made me want to power fist my way through St. Louis and beyond. I’m betting that fire lives in her novel.

The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson - A middle grade mystery with a bookish brown girl as its protagonist? Yes and please and thank you very much.

S.T.A.G.S. by M.A. Bennett - I left the Tristate Book Buzz with four books I just had to have. This is one of those books. What’s the Tristate Book Buzz? It’s a fall event in New York where you hang out with Book people and leave with tons of advanced reader’s copies of upcoming and buzzworthy middle grade and YA books. It’s a little like nirvana.

Sunny by Jason Reynolds - Ghost. Patina. Sunny is the next in Jason Reynolds excellent Track series. I said Jason Reynolds, so that should really be all you need.

Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli - I loved Simon vs. The Homo Sapien agenda. I disliked The Upside of Unrequited. I’m still a believer.

On the Come Up by Angie Thomas - Angie Thomas.

The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza by Shaun David Hutchinson - Have you ever seen the far too short lived tv show called Wonderfalls? It was so great, but so ahead of its time. Its protagonist heard voices - voices coming from tchotchkes in the gift shop where she worked. Elena Mendoza also her voices coming from inanimate objects. She’s also the product of a virgin birth. She also performs miracles, and maybe needs to stop the world from ending.

The Case for Jamie by Brittany Cavallaro - Charlotte Holmes #3

Puddin’ by Julie Murphy- Did you know there is a food truck in D.C. called Puddin'? They have brown butter bourbon bread puddin'. It is treat for your mouth. Puddi' is also a new novel by Julie Murphy. It isn’t a Dumplin’ sequel, but a new story from Willowdean's neck of the woods. Murphy promises we’ll get updates on Willowdean and Bo, which sounds great, but I’m always ready for a Julie Murphy novel.

Legendary by Stephanie Garber -This is the sequel to Caraval. Caraval came so close to breaking my 2017 top ten. I’m comfortable calling it the unspoken number eleven.

White Rabbit by Caleb Roehrig - This is the story of what happens when the boy you hate because he broke your heart but love because he’s the only boy in the world for you is the one person who can help you solve a brutal murder your sister may or may not have committed. Did you just preorder this? I didn’t, but only because maybe I have an advanced reader’s copy. Right here is where I would Insert a smirking emoji if I was the sort of person who did such things.

Dread Nation by Justina Ireland - This title just sounds cool, like a Nirvana song. A bit of revisionist history because dead soldiers are rising from Civil War battlefields, and black and indigenous people have been trained to fight this zombie threat. Zombies aren’t my thing, but this sounds too cool to miss.

Tyler Johnson Was Here by Jay Coles - Speaking of advanced reader’s copy . . . All American Boys, The Hate U Give, Dear Martin I’d like to introduce you to the house you built. Prepare yourself for heartbreak. Prepare yourself to confront the realities of race in America.

Nice Try Jane Sinner by Lianne Oelke - Going on reality tv to discover your true self must be oxymoronic. It also is probably hysterical.

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo - when the world just sees your body. When family expectations box you in. When your love goes in unexpected directions. When you have so many feelings. Slam poetry is your friend.

Tradition by Brandon Kiely - Brandon Kiely, co-author of All American Boys, delivers a novels that explores the danger of tradition, power, and privilege. Power indeed corrupts.

From Twinkle with Love by Sandhya Menon - Remember Dimple? Remember Rishi? Here’s Twinkle!

What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera - Adam Silvera and Becky Albertalli. Oh, you wanted more. Okay, but you don’t need more.

Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi - I love the cover. It’s a love story for the awkward.

#Prettyboy Must Die by Kimberly Reid - Tristate Book Buzz #3

People Like Us by Dana Mele - When the dead speak. When the dead demand that you solve their murder, it sort of ruins your plans for popularity and glory.

Cadaver Queen by Alisa Kwitney - Remember the Tristate Book Buzz and the four books that I just had to have? Here’s number four. I’ve been carrying it with me since October. Occasionally I like to tease myself with it. I feel like this is a one sitting read, so I’m going to respect that notion.

Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough - Remember that math and science kid? Well, not only did she go on to study English, she went on to study capital a Art. This is a fictionalized account of the artist Artemisia Gentileschi. She was a Caravaggista. A brilliant artist whose talent is too often defined through the lens of what was done to her by a soulless man. She was the subject of my thesis, so I have high hopes and expectations for this one.

The Radical Element by Jessica Spotswood - Boundless and timeless girl power.

Chaotic Good by Whitney Gardner- A tale at least as old as Shakespeare. Girl pretends to be boy because misogyny.

The Ladies Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee - Remember that book I talked about once or twice? The Gentleman’s Guide to something and something else. Well, here is the next book in the Guide series. Monty’s little sister, pirates, and a gang of female scientist. Awesome and sauce.

You Go First by Erin Entrada Kelly - I think this might be my Posted for 2018. A story of family, friendship, bullying, and finding your tribe. And it has Scarbble letters on the cover, which makes it an automatic winner.