Brown Girl Dreaming

“And somehow, one day, it’s just there / speckled black-and white, the paper / inside smelling like something I could fall right into, / live there — inside those clean white pages.” Jacqueline Woodson’s childhood unfolds in poems that beautifully reveal details of her early life and her slow but gradually certain understanding that words and stories and writing were essential to her. Her older sister was shining smart. One of her brothers could sing wonderfully. She would come to realize words were her smart, her singing, her special thing.

The Undefeated

Kwame Alexander’s powerful ode, a celebration of African American survival, achievement, creativity, and resilience, is brimming with references to historical and contemporary people and cultural touchstones and incorporates direct quotes that speak to past (“we shall not be moved”) and present (”black lives matter”).

Mary’s Monster: Love, Madness, and How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein

“She conceived me. / I took shape like an infant, / not in her body, but in her heart, growing from her imagination / till I was bold enough to climb out of the page / and into your mind.” Frankenstein’s monster speaks the Prologue, but it’s Mary Shelley’s voice that cries out across fictionalized, first-person poems recounting her life from childhood up until shortly after writing Frankenstein when she was barely more than 20.

Martin Rising: Requiem for a King

In early April 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., returned to Memphis to stand again with striking sanitation workers. Fevered and tired, he wanted to skip the April 3 evening rally at Mason Temple, but went and roused the crowd with his oratory and his faith in the path of nonviolence and the promise of the future he knew he may not live to see.

The Poet X

Fifteen-year-old Xiomara is a Dominican American teen living in Harlem. Her twin brother, Xavier, a smart, gentle boy, can do no wrong in their mother’s eyes. Xiomara can do no right. She often feels unseen and misunderstood, even by Xavier despite their closeness and despite the fact she has always defended him, whether from bullies or from their mother’s judgment—the mother doesn’t know he’s gay

Voices in the Air: Poems for Listeners

“Can we go outside and listen?” Naomi Nye ponders in her introduction. Or stay in. Reflect. Pay. Attention. If we do we’ll find there is no such thing as a too-small moment or memory. The poems here range topically from the treatment of Palestinians (grief), to Ferguson, where Nye grew up (more grief), to the way genuine connection uplifts her.

Bravo! Poems about Amazing Hispanics

“Flight! / I’m the first woman pilot, but I won’t be the last — / every little girl who sees me up here in blue sky / will surely grow up with dreams / of flying too!” (from “The World’s First Woman Pilot,” Aída de Acosta, 1884-1962, Cuba) Biographical poems introduce 18 Hispanics whose lives, notes author Margarita Engle, range from those “celebrated in their lifetimes but have been forgotten by history,” to others who “achieved lasting fame.”