April 12, 2016

Friday, October 26, 2012

Poetry Friday: DeShawn Days

At Author Amok, we've spent most of October with poet and children's author Tony Medina.

Two of the books I featured are picture books -- verse biographies of two figures who are heroes to many: Langston Hughes (my post about Love to Langston is here) and Bob Marley (and the post about I and I Bob Marley is here).

Medina's latest book of poems for young people, out any day now, is THE PRESIDENT LOOKS LIKE ME, a kids' view of another man for this history books, President Obama.

Published by Just Us Books.

Tony will be here next week for an interview about the new book. Meanwhile...

I'd like to share a Medina book that is a huge favorite with kids. From time to time, Tony posts on Facebook about his Skype visits with school-children, usually boys, who *love* DESHAWN DAYS. They ask Tony questions about DeShawn as if he were a real person, because the character does feel real.

DeShawn Days
Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie.

DeShawn isn't a famous poet or musician. He's a ten year old kid growing up in the projects. Through loosely styled poems of place, odes and portraits, DeShawn shows the reader who he is, who he loves, and what his life is like. (A classroom guide is here -- thanks Lee & Low Books!)

(Side note: this book was designed by my friend, author/illustrator Christy Hale of THE EAST WEST HOUSE.)

There are so many poems in this book that I loved, and that have strong kid-appeal. With Tony's permission, I am sharing this one. I hope it gives you a taste of DeShawn's voice.
DeShawn raps with his cousin, Tiffany.

I Love Rap
by Tony Medina

I love rap
not just 'cause of the beats
that make you move your feet
                       but the words
'cause they talk about reality
'cause they talk about me
and my block

I love rap and I love rhyming
and sometimes I be timing
Tiffany when she's on the mike
and I'm the deejay wavin' my hands
in the air scratchin' make-believe records

But I'm not lesser 'cause I use
the top of my mother's dresser

I love rap
and I love rhyming
in front of the mirror
making believe I'm in a video
          wearing a baseball cap
          and my uncle's shades
and when I let my hair grow out
I'll have me some braids
and when I get older and bolder
I'll learn how to break dance
          with my legs in the air
          kicking like propellers
standing on my hands
bustin' out rhymes
with Tiff and the fellas

Poem posted with permission of Tony Medina. All rights reserved. Thanks, Tony. 

Kids won't be surprised -- since DeShawn feels so real -- that the character has a lot in common with Tony Medina.
Tony visits with elementary schoolers.
Tony writes in an afterword, "I come from a similar world as DeShawn. I was a skinny brown boy from the projects with asthma, an active imagination, and a grandmother who was there for me... Every other day I wanted to be something different: a construction worker, a sailor, a movie star, a comedian, a lawyer, you name it."

Tony was turned on to reading and writing by Daniel Keyes' book Flowers for Algernon. He says, "A writer is a great thing to be because you get to paint pictures, tell stories, create worlds, and express your feeling, all with words."

Friends -- if you have not participated in the "Next Big Thing Blog Hop" yet and are interested, please let me know. My "Next Big Thing" post is here. Send me an email if you'd like to answer the questions and be one of my linkees.

Get out there and find all of the pictures, stories, worlds and emotions poets are sharing today. (I'm sure there will be plenty of costumes, frights and Halloween candy too.) It's Poetry Friday! Our host is Linda B. at Teacher Dance.
Candy Corn Popcorn Balls from

I will be driving -- ahead of the storm, I hope -- to the Poconos today, for a retreat with poet Michael Glaser. But I hope to sample lots of poetry goodies before I leave and when I return.


Tabatha said...

Enjoyed "I Love Rap," Laura. Also, the cover of "The President Looks Like Me" is terrific. Hope you have a good retreat!

Robyn Hood Black said...

I can see why the kids clamor for Tony Medina and Deshawn! Thanks for sharing.

Safe travels, too - looking forward to seeing what you bring back. :0)

Andromeda Jazmon said...

I know a ten year old boy who will be down with that Rap poem. Thanks for posting it! Enjoy your ride to the Poconos and the poetry retreat before the storm hits!!

Author Amok said...

Thanks, all. We should just make it back in time to weather out the storm at home.

Tara @ A Teaching Life said...

We will be trying out this rap in our classroom - such great verve and energy in it! Safe travels, as well.

Doraine said...

I LOVE Deshawn Days! Thanks for sharing.

GatheringBooks said...

I Love Rap sounds absolutely glorious - and Tony Medina is quite the looker too! I should go check out more of his poems. :)

Mary Lee said...

This looks like a fun book with lots of kid appeal!

Linda B said...

I offer 'safe travels' too, Laura. I love hearing about Tony, someone new to me, and will be sure to share the post with others. All the books look terrific, and especially The President Looks Like Me. It seems you've had an exciting month!

Author Amok said...

Hi, everyone. Great poetry weekend at Kirkwood Retreat Center. If you're in that area (Lehigh Valley, PA), they have lots of different retreat programs. I highly recommend Michael Glaser and his wife Kathleen -- they are wonderful, sensitive retreat leaders.