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"Voices in the Air: Poems for Listeners" (Greenwillow Books)

Parents need to know that National Book Award Finalist Naomi Shihab “Nye’s Voices in the Air: Poems for Listeners” is a collection of 95 free verse poems. They’re populated with writers, artists, musicians, and lots of ordinary people and set in places that range from a Texas airport and the streets of Gaza to a small town in California and a beach in Nansha, China. Nye’s poems are thought provoking, sometimes humorous and often tackle big issues like refugees and racial prejudice, but her easy and accessible style is sure to captivate even the most reluctant readers of poetry.


In “Voices in the Air,” readers discover that Maya Angelou “loved the jingle of the massive key ring carried by cable car conductors” and that John Steinbeck would sharpen 24 pencils each day and write until they were dull. Nye writes about eating Chinese food with friends in Georgia and the challenges of being a first-grader in a fifth-grade poets’ workshop. In “Unbelievable Things,” she remembers wearing a gray linen shift dress when having lunch with the president of Finland and a shopping cart stolen in a Home Depot parking lot. She recalls a day spent with Jack Kerouac’s widow, Stella, where they “talked, ate tuna fish, pawed through closets and didn’t answer the phone.” Poems like “What Do Palestinians Want” reflect her own background as the child of an American mother and a Palestinian refugee journalist father, who grew up in St. Louis, Jerusalem and San Antonio, Texas.


Poems that will let inspire readers to slow down, turn off their digital devices, and find a quiet place to lose themselves in an unforgettable collection of free verse. For readers who may be intimidated by the unfamiliar names of artists and writers in Voices in the Air, there’s a section of Biographical Notes with a few lines about each person. An Index of First Lines makes it easy to locate a favorite poem or be intrigued enough by a line (“Up late watching TV commercials while waiting” or “Fifty years before you did your homework”) to try a poem they haven’t yet read.


Recommended for ages 13 and older

Quality: 5 out of 5

Educational value: 0 out of 5

Positive messages: 4 out of 5

Positive role models: 4 out of 5

Violence: 2 out of 5

Sex: 1 out of 5

Language: 0 out of 5

Drinking, drugs, and smoking: 0 out of 5

Consumerism: 0 out of 5


Author: Naomi Shihab Nye

Genre: Poetry

Book type: Fiction

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Publication date: February 13, 2018

Number of pages: 208


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