Monday, September 28, 2015

Jump Back, Paul

Jump Back, Paul: The Life and Poetry of Laurence Dunbar. Sally Derby. Illustrated by Sean Qualls. Candlewick Press. 128 pages. [Source: Review copy] 

It had me at hello.
You never heard of the poet Paul Laurence Dunbar? Child, where've you been? I got to have a word with you. Why, back in the day, you'd have whole families sitting around listening while one of them performed "When Malindy Sings" or "Little Brown Baby" or "A Negro Love Song" (which folks most always call "Jump Back, Honey").
Within a page or two, I was just fascinated with the book, with the story, with the narrator, and just HAD to keep reading. I wasn't expecting to find a book about a poet compelling, honestly. But this is a well-crafted narrative.
Readers learn about Paul Laurence Dunbar. Readers get the opportunity to read many of his poems. And that opportunity comes within the context of learning about his life. And I think, in part, that is why it is so compelling. It isn't just "here kid, read some poems." Far from it, readers have all they need--in my opinion--to understand and appreciate the poems. Readers are given a taste only, just enough to make you want more.

I really enjoyed this one. I'm not sure what I enjoyed most: learning about the poet, OR, reading the poems. I think both elements work well together. I think if readers had the biography without the poems, it would fall short. And I think the reverse is also true. Without knowing his life story, the times in which he lived, what mattered and why, the poems lose something--especially with so young an audience.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Review Policy

I am interested in reviewing books and audio books. This blog focuses on books written for middle grade on up (essentially 10 to a 110). I review middle grade fiction and young adult fiction (aka tween and teen).

I also review adult books.

I read in a variety of genres including realistic fiction, historical fiction, mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction, and chick lit. (I've read one western to date.)

I read a few poetry books, a few short story collections, a few graphic novels, a few nonfiction books.

I am especially fond of:

  • Regency romances (including Austen prequels/sequels)
  • Historical fiction set in the Tudor dynasty
  • Historical fiction and nonfiction set during World War II
  • Jewish fiction/nonfiction
  • dystopias
  • apocalyptic fiction
  • science fiction (especially if it involves time travel and alternate realities)
  • fantasy
  • multicultural books and international books

I am not a fan of:

  • sports books
  • horse books
  • dog books if the dog dies (same goes with most pets actually except maybe fish)
  • westerns (if it's a pioneer story with women and children, then maybe)
  • extremely violent books with blood, blood, and more blood

I am more interested in strong characters, well-written, fleshed-out, human characters. Plot is secondary to me in a way. I have to care about the characters in order to care about the plot. That being said, compelling storytelling is something that I love. I love to become absorbed in what I'm reading.

If you're interested in sending me a review copy of your book, I'm happy to hear from you. Email me at laney_po AT yahoo DOT com.

You should know several things before you contact me:

1) I do not guarantee a review of your book. I am just agreeing to consider it for review.
2) I give all books at least fifty pages.
3) I am not promising anyone (author or publisher) a positive review in exchange for a review copy. That's not how I work.
4) In all of my reviews I strive for honesty. My reviews are my opinions--so yes, they are subjective--you should know my blog will feature both negative and positive reviews.
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