April 12, 2016

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Summer Reads: Chapter & Verse (Darius & Twig)

On Friday, I announced a new series of posts called "Summer Reads: Chapter & Verse." Thanks for all of your comments and interest! I'm still looking for guest bloggers to share novels they have read this summer, paired with a poem that complements the book.

If you'd like more information, you can find a full explanation of the series and a sample Chapter & Verse pairing at this post.

When Walter Dean Myers passed away a few weeks ago, I was in the middle of one of his recent novels, DARIUS & TWIG.

Local indie bookstore Politics & Prose has it!
Teenagers Darius and Twig are best friends with big dreams. Darius is a gifted writer. Twig burns up the sidewalk, training to be a runner. Both boys know their gifts could be a ticket to college and out of their Harlem neighborhood. But they struggle against discouraging teachers, shootings and racism, and classmates who don't seem to want anyone to succeed.

DARIUS & TWIG was released in 2013 (Amistad Press). I had to look up the date of my poem match, "We Real Cool," by Gwendolyn Brooks. Though Brooks' poem was first published in 1959, she speaks in the voice of Darius and Twig's modern-day classmates.

We Real Cool


The Pool Players.
        Seven at the Golden Shovel.

            We real cool. We   
            Left school. We

            Lurk late. We
            Strike straight. We

            Sing sin. 

Read the poem's conclusion and listen to a recording at the Poetry Foundation.

Reading the novel and revisiting this poem has me thinking about the culture of urban poverty. Looking at the two side by side makes me wonder how much, if anything, has changed in the 50 plus years since "We Real Cool" was written. In Walter Dean Myers' novel, Darius and Twig hear the voices and feel the pull of characters like Brooks' pool players. Going to college means leaving home and an entire culture behind -- the kind elders and close friendships as well as the violence and sense of hopelessness.

Walter Dean Myers obituary at CNN.

Do you have a Chapter & Verse to contribute? Let me know. Instructions are in this post.

Just following along? Here's how you can use the Chapter & Verse series:

Recommended Reads -- If you're on a summer reading binge (I am!), and you're looking for something new and different to take to the beach, look no further.

Back to School -- Already planning lessons for the school year? Add some poetry to your reading units. The pairings in this series are perfect for jump-starting classroom discussion.

Next up: Janet Wong's Chapter & Verse is a double dose of Spinelli. Look for Janet's guest post on Poetry Friday.


Linda B said...

I'm thinking, wondering about all the books I've read, and what poem might be good matches. I read Hoops by Walter Dean Myers right after he died, wanted to re-connect. He tells the stories so poignantly & it is sad, as you write, that Gwendolyn Brooks' poem describes similar feelings. When I taught, I had students find famous art and then a poem to go with, Laura. Love your idea, will look for Janet's post Friday.

Margaret Simon said...

This is such a good pairing. I had the privilege of meeting WDM two years ago and attend a writing workshop with him. It's hard to believe he is gone. This is a great project, and I plan to use it with my students this year to get them both to read deeper and to read poetry.