July 23, 2012

Technically, It's Not My Fault

TECHNICALLY, IT'S NOT MY FAULT: Concrete Poems by John Grandits (Houghton Mifflin, 2004)
GENRE: Poetry (contemporary / realism)
HONORS: ALA Notable Book for Children; ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers; VOYA Poetry Pick

REVIEW: Poetry can be a difficult sell, particularly for tweens and teens. The assumption tends to be one of leaves of grass and various meditations on things that don't matter, let alone resonate, with modern teens.  Luckily, John Grandits's collection, Technically It's Not My Fault, effectively, and with great humor, dispels that notion. To begin with, Grandits's poems form a narrative arc in which the narrator / poet, a boy named Robert, recounts and ponders his life, from his older sister's choice in head-wear, (apparently, she wears a pyramid shaped hat) to mowing the grass. The result is a humorous and oddly genuine portrait of a twelve-year old boy's world. The other aspect that makes the poems in this collection appeal so strongly with young people, is the fact that they are concrete poems, or poems in which the words form  shapes that elucidate the topic of the poem as a whole. So when Robert writes about the injustice of being punished for setting off fireworks, the words of the poem illustrate the shoot and fizzle of the fireworks in question. Because the form is so integral, it frees the poetry to sound more colloquial and chatty - more like spoken word than iambic pentameter, a fact which renders the poems in this collection accessible to a fantastic degree.

OPINION: This is one of the best poetry collections for young people that I've ever read. Inventive, accessible and polished, it's fun to read simply for the narrative, but in addition to being a fun, quick read, it begs the reader to think, even if briefly, about the nature of poetry and about what poetry is, all the while deepening their capacity to think critically about what they read.

IDEAS: A wonderful suggestion for reluctant readers of both sexes and fans of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, as both explore the everyday life of modern tweens. An especially great choice for young people resistant to poetry. In fact, you could probably hand it to a tween without saying a word, confident that he or she would enjoy it without even realizing it's a collection of poetry.

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