Saturday, May 23, 2009

Because I am Furniture

Isn't that a great title? I just finished reading an advance copy of this novel written in blank verse by Thalia Chaltas. First I have to say something about blank verse. As a teacher who has loved teaching creative writing to students in elementary school I have so tired of cheap rhyme (Ms. Kezar isn't a geezer...) that I was thrilled when I discovered Byrd Baylor's wonderful picture books written in blank verse. I was able to show my students how she used rhythm and line and word placement not relying on rhyme. I personally liked it because I wasn't very good at rhyming myself and it became a tradition, for instance, for me to write a poem each year for my students capturing our year together.
After 911 I found a wonderful book,911: The Book of Help which was a collection of essays and stories and poems by children's writers about that event and its aftermath. One of my favorite pieces was a wonderful poem by Sonia Sones, a poem that I had students perform at several Remembrance Day assemblies. One year I was wandering the book displays at an International Reading Association convention and asked a book seller who was autographing at her booth. She told me Sonia Sones. I was thrilled to meet her . She told me she wished she could have seen my students do her poem and of course, I bought two of her novels written in blank verse which I thoroughly enjoyed. I noted the dedication on one was to her teacher, Myra Cohn Livingstone, a well known children's poet. Years before I had gone to a workshop with Myra Cohn Livingstone. About a week later a package arrived with the Beverly Hills 90210 postal code. I was sure I didn't know any one who lived in Beverly Hills and of course, it was a bibliography she had said she would send.
When I read the acknowledgments for Because I am Furniture there was a thank you to Sonya Sones for encouraging Thalia with the writing of this novel. As everyone knows I love connections.
Anyway blank verse novels seem more common and I like them. I think it's the sense of interrupted voice. But I am a bit off topic. You are asking, "What is the novel about?" It's about a girl who feels like a piece of furniture in a home where her father is physical abusive to her older brother and sister but other than disparaging comments leaves her alone. Charming outside of the home, her father is a very angry man and her mom is kind but seemingly powerless to see or to deal with the damage this man does. Joining the volleyball team gives Anka finally the courage to break the silence. One commenter felt the ending was a bit simplistic and perhaps, over optimistic, but I will let you judge.
Recently at the International Reading Association YA writer, Jamie Adoff (who also contributed to the Book of Help) and writes in free verse,commented that many teenagers have tough lives and by reading realistic fiction (which probably can never be as bad as some of their lives) they don't feel so alone.

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