Elmore Green enjoys being an only child. He doesn’t have to worry about anyone messing with his stuff, and “Elmore Green’s parents thought he was simply the funniest, cleverest, most adorable person they had ever seen.” When a “new small person” arrives, Elmore Green’s perfectly ordered life is turned upside down. “They all seemed to like it … maybe a little bit MORE than they liked Elmore Green.” As the new small person gets bigger, he disrupts Elmore’s things, he licks Elmore’s jelly beans, he follows Elmore around, he moves into Elmore’s room. It’s awful, until the night Elmore has a bad dream and the small person comforts him.
When Pakistani American Naila’s parents find out she has a boyfriend they see it not only as a huge betrayal of trust but also worry how far from their culture and control she is moving. It doesn’t matter that Saif is Pakistani, too. Genuinely afraid for Naila, her parents take her to visit family in Pakistan the summer before she starts college. Naila doesn’t understand until it’s too late why they keep postponing their return: They’re arranging a marriage for her. After a failed escape attempt, Naila is drugged by her uncle and forced to marry Amin. He is a kind and patient young man who feels trapped in his own way by tradition.
Astrid Vasquez and her best friend Nicole can barely tolerate her mother’s regular Evenings of Cultural Enrichment until she surprises them with a roller derby match. For Astrid, it’s a life-changing experience: she’s hooked on roller derby, and is especially struck by the star player of the Rose City Rollers, Rainbow Brite. When she learns that there is going to be a roller derby summer camp for girls 12-17, she immediately signs up and assumes Nicole will, too. But Nicole has other plans for the summer. She wants to attend dance camp with Astrid’s long-time nemesis and Astrid feels betrayed.
Flor’s uneventful but happy life is dealt two simultaneous blows. Her best friend Sylvie, the only other 11-year-old in their Lake Erie island community, is sent away to attend a private academy at the same time that Flor’s Mom leaves, ostensibly to care for her ill mother. But Flor knows that her grandmother’s many relatives living nearby could help her out and suspects her Mom’s leaving has more to do with the escalating arguing between her parents. Money is tight, and sometimes Flor imagines that it’s hard for her mom being the only non-white person, let alone the only Spanish-speaker, on the island.
The task of selecting 100 poems and poets for this anthology must have felt both limiting and liberating. Limiting because if these poems are any example—and they surely are—the talent pool of young poets in America is deep and diverse. That isn’t a surprise, but it must have made the number 100 feel like a huge challenge at times. Yet as hard as choosing must have been, 100 poems also allowed for remarkable inclusiveness.
Zulay, who is blind, wants to be treated like the other kids in her elementary classroom. And mostly, she is. She and her three best friends (one white, one Asian American and one African American, like Zulay) help one another in class and play together during recess. When the other students go to gym, though, Zulay has to work with Ms. Turner, who is teaching her to walk with a cane. Zulay doesn’t want to use a cane because it makes her stand out as different.
As a child, Mary Nohl helped her father build a house along the shore of Lake Michigan just north of Milwaukee and was “happiest when her hands were busy making, building, creating things.” Mary grew up to travel all over the world and was captivated by the art in the places she visited. When she came back home to the house she’d helped build, she began to collect found objects on the beach, with the help of her dogs Sassafras and Basil. The things she gathered were part of something bigger—a creature she could see her in imagination and soon set about bringing into being.
Neel lives on one of the Sundarban islands off the coast of Bangladesh. Neel’s father has always said it’s important to protect the land and the tigers, so Neel is dismayed when Baba agrees to work for wealthy Mr. Gupta hunting a tiger cub that escaped from a nearby refuge. Everyone knows Mr. Gupta wants to sell the cub on the black market. But hardworking Baba needs extra money to hire a tutor to help Neel prepare for an upcoming scholarship exam. Neel doesn’t care about the scholarship; he has no desire to leave the island for further schooling. He does care about the little cub, however, so he and his older sister, Rupa, who wishes she could go to school, are determined to find the cub before anyone else, even Baba, and return it to the refuge.
Unconventional Hoot Owl concocts one outrageous costume after another as he attempts to bag his evening meal. But just as his carrot disguise doesn’t fool a rabbit, his ornamental birdbath get-up fails to result in a pigeon dinner. Undaunted, Hoot Owl moves from one lost opportunity to the next, finally nailing an inanimate pepperoni pizza while wearing the white jacket and toque of a waiter, complete with a mustache penciled below his beak.
Millo Castro Zaldarriaga was born in Cuba in the 1920s and grew up attuned to the rhythms in the world around her, and inside her. She dreamed of drumming, but only boys and men learned how to play at that time. She dared to drum anyway, “tall conga drums / small bongo drums / and big, round, silvery / moon-bright timbales … Her hands seemed to fly / as they rippled / rapped / and pounded / all the rhythms / of her drum dreams.” Her father said no when her sisters asked ten-year-old Millo to join their band. Only boys should play drums, he said. But Millo couldn’t silence the sounds.