Poetry for Young People: Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes   Confession time: I am not much for picking up a book of poetry and simply reading it for enjoyment. Sure, I see the value in reading poetry not only for my own thinking and writing but also for finding resources for my students, but it rarely sits on my to-be-read pile. Although I have been reading more verse novels lately, I still see these to be much different from the collections of poetry which I tend to avoid. As a reader, I need to do a better job expanding my palate, and that begins with Poetry for Young People: Langston Hughes.

I have read and enjoyed some of Hughes’s poetry before, but this volume helped me to better understand where he was coming from thanks to the introduction at the beginning which provided background on his life. In this section, there is useful information about where Hughes got his ideas from, and it also includes quotes from him; one that stuck out to me encompasses much of Hughes’s poetry: “I tried to write poems like the songs they sang on Seventh Street,… songs that had the pulse beat of the people who keep going.”

The idea of resilience mentioned in the quote is woven throughout many of the poems in this

Langston Hughes Picture

anthology, including “Mother to Son” and “Still Here.” Hughes manages to portray an optimism that not many African Americans of his time may have felt due to their treatment at the hands of whites in America. He repeatedly brings up the idea that people should never lose sight of their dreams, like in “Dream Variations” and “The Dream Keeper.” The poem “Hey! Hey!” continues this idea that people need to look on the bright side, but it is accompanied by “Hey!”, a poem in which the narrator has the blues.

A common device found in Hughes’s poems is repetition, like in “Aunt Sue’s Stories.” The repetition enhances the important ideas for readers while alluding to Hughes’s love for music. He also has many extended metaphors, like that of life as a rickety staircase in “Mother to Son,” or a personified piano in “The Weary Blues.”

Anyone looking for strong multicultural literature or powerful figurative language will find a lot to like about Poetry for Young People: Langston Hughes.

Below, you can hear Langston Hughes reading “I, Too,” one of the poems included in this anthology.

Happy reading!


Laurel Snyder Month

It is officially the first annual Laurel Snyder September on my blog! Hooray! You may be asking yourself: Why does Laurel Snyder get a whole month dedicated to her on this prestigious blog? If that’s the case, you should first make your way to her website and look around. Then purchase some of her books to share with the kids in your life. Now that you have more background, you know that Mrs. Snyder has written some great books for kids. I am dedicating the entire month of September to her books because she is going to be participating in a Skype session with the students at my school in October. Hooray again! So I will be reading her books and writing about them on this blog throughout the month!

The first book I chose is her picture book called Inside the Slidy Diner. I really did not know what to expect from this book. Based on some of the features of the cover, I knew this diner probably wasn’t up-to-code with local health ordnances. I wondered about the lemon drop featured in the girl’s heart-shaped grasp and what it would have to do with the plot. After a few more questions rattled around in my head, I dove into the book.

This story is told from the perspective of a little girl who seems to live in the Slidy Diner. She drags a boy through the establishment and explains what it is like there every day. This mostly includes strange (the man who smells like mice and sleeps in a bowl of oatmeal) and gross (sticky buns that fall to the floor are served again) features. The unnamed protagonist eventually shows the boy how not everything is really as bad as it sounds.

The book does not have much text, but readers are kept moving through the different aspects of the diner with the writing that is present. Even with so few words, there are some great descriptions that really make the reader think, such as when the paint on the walls is described as the “color of your grandma’s slippers.”

I loved the art in this book due to all of the little details that make the setting come to life. The illustrations work well with the sparse text. Readers could pore over these pictures for an extended amount of time and still not notice everything that is happening. The colors that are used work well to set the tone of the story.

Although younger readers who enjoy picture books can read this book, older readers will definitely enjoy the book and have things to think about because of all of the inferences that can be made. I can just see readers asking questions about the characters featured in the story and making up tales about other things that might happen in the diner. I also expect that some of these readers would love the gross-out content, like images of bugs on every page and lady fingers that are…real ladies’ fingers! Overall, I enjoyed Inside the Slidy Diner for its great art and quirky writing. Check out Inside the Slidy Diner from your library today!

Until next time, have a Snydertastic September!