cover image Where the Steps Were

Where the Steps Were

Andrea Cheng, . . Boyds Mills/WordSong, $16.95 (143pp) ISBN 978-1-932425-88-8

In a spare, eloquent novel in verse illustrated with her own bold block prints, Cheng (Marika ) captures the moods of five inner-city third-graders as they prepare themselves for their school's impending demolition. A sense of loss prevails, but other emotions—jealousy, indignation, pride and love—percolate as the five narrators deal with personal issues at school and at home. Using very few words, the author conveys complicated back stories: Jonathan, for example, can't go home with his friend, and his friend “can't come to my house, either./ I used to have a house/ before my little brother Caleb/ set the mattress on fire/.... He wanted to dry out the sheets/ before anyone saw.” She also evokes the children's innocence and shared affection for their teacher, Miss D., who instills in them a strong sense of justice, especially after they are falsely accused of spitting from a theater balcony. Mixing sad and uplifting images occurring between the fall and spring of a school year, these poems pay tribute to hard-working educators and children learning to overcome obstacles and accept unwelcome changes. Ages 6-up. (Mar.)