Salting the Ocean: 100 Poems by Young Poets

Naomi Shihab Nye, Selected by, Ashley Bryan, Illustrator
Naomi Shihab Nye, Selected by, Ashley Bryan, Illustrator Greenwillow Books $18.99 (128p) ISBN 978-0-688-16193-4
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Bryan's (Jump Back, Honey) vibrant, imaginative cover art and section openers raise high expectations, but this volume offers rather less than meets the eye. Representing Nye's (What Have You Lost?) favorite student poems from her 25 years of teaching poetry workshops to schoolchildren, it seems more suitable for forming lesson plans than for the enjoyment of children themselves. The poems suggest familiar workshop techniques (e.g., a number of poems rely on the opening words ""I sing"" or ""I feel like"" or ""I remember"") and, perhaps because they reflect a single teacher's methods and tastes, the collection as a whole seems repetitive, ingratiating or sometimes coy (""We had a/ `Most commonly misspelled word'/ Spelling test ./ Loneliness/ was the only one I got right""). It seems unfair, no matter how well-intentioned, to present these youthful outpourings as accomplished poems, worthy of critical reading. It also raises the question of audience: Nye's self-congratulatory forewords (there are three) and vignettes (""Where is one true word? Where are three?"") will better serve teachers than kids, for whom reading this volume may be like plowing through a stack of somebody else's homework. Ages 8-up. (Mar.)
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