Sunday, November 30, 2008

review: If You're Not Here, Please Raise Your Hand

An old review, but my son just came up and gleefully read me a poem, so I had to celebrate. Copyright 1995. I have kept this book for thirteen years, waiting for this day. (And it is still in print!)

If You’re Not Here, Please Raise Your Hand by Kalli Dakos. Illustrated by G. Brian Karas. Simon & Schuster, 1990 (0-02-725581-6); Aladdin, 1995 (0-689-80116-5) $3.95 pb

Featuring poems that are wise, revealing and poignant as well as funny, this surprisingly multi-faceted collection captures some of the most memorable and universal moments in the lives of schoolchildren and teachers. Here we laughingly rediscover the terrible power of Mr. Culp’s mighty eye, the book money that only Tim remembered (and teacher passed out from the shock), the strain of being silent while your friend is sitting next to you (“Teacher, could you do what you ask us to do?”), and the beautiful days that call to you while you’re forced to stay indoors. Here also are revelations about the saddest parts of school life, like the death of a friend who never will be ten or the teasing names that feel like darts thrown into your heart. The book has its share of trivial verses, but for a collection that’s mostly comic, its use of imagery is unusually strong. The poems are charmingly accented by Karas’ whimsical and affectionate pencil drawings. * (7-12)

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