Tuesday, April 7, 2009
The Freedom Business
Nelson, Marilyn. 2008. THE FREEDOM BUSINESS. Ill. by Deborah Dancy. Asheville, NC: Front Street. ISBN 1932425578 [Suggested Grade Levels 8-12]
Like the “novel in verse,” a new trend in poetry is the biography told through a series of connected poems or poetic vignettes particularly appropriate for older children and young adults. Marilyn Nelson set the trend in motion with her award winning biographical poetry book, CARVER: A LIFE IN POEMS, a blending of fact, poetry, and images of primary source material. In this book, each poem is written in response to the true-life memoir of Broteer Furro (1729-1805), later named "Venture Smith," the first African known to document his capture and life as an American slave. Pages from his original manuscript are paired with Nelson’s original poems, illustrated with evocative collages by Deborah Dancy. Together, they chronicle his life and eventual freedom.
These poems lend themselves to a powerful read aloud performance. Two volunteers can stand side by side (or back to back) reading the paired entries.
Teen readers and aspiring poets may want to try creating a poem biography about a favorite figure from history, creating collages to capture the person and the times alongside the poems.
Other YA poetry books written by Marilyn Nelson about African American history:
A WREATH FOR EMMETT TILL. ISBN 0547076363
CARVER: A LIFE IN POEMS. ISBN 1886910537
FORTUNE'S BONES: THE MANUMISSION REQUIEM. ISBN 1932425128
MISS CRANDALL’S SCHOOL FOR YOUNG LADIES AND LITTLE MISSES OF COLOR. (With Elizabeth Alexander). ISBN 1590784561
By Sylvia M. Vardell