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Between the Lines
Cover of Between the Lines
Between the Lines
Borrow
This thought-provoking companion to Nikki Grimes' Coretta Scott King Award-winning Bronx Masquerade shows the capacity poetry has to express ideas and feelings, and connect us with ourselves and others.

Darrian dreams of writing for the New York Times. To hone his skills and learn more about the power of words, he enrolls in Mr. Ward's class, known for its open-mic poetry readings and boys vs. girls poetry slam. Everyone in class has something important to say, and in sharing their poetry, they learn that they all face challenges and have a story to tell—whether it's about health problems, aging out of foster care, being bullied for religious beliefs, or having to take on too much responsibility because of an addicted parent. As Darrian and his classmates get to know one another through poetry, they bond over the shared experiences and truth that emerge from their writing, despite their private struggles and outward differences.
This thought-provoking companion to Nikki Grimes' Coretta Scott King Award-winning Bronx Masquerade shows the capacity poetry has to express ideas and feelings, and connect us with ourselves and others.

Darrian dreams of writing for the New York Times. To hone his skills and learn more about the power of words, he enrolls in Mr. Ward's class, known for its open-mic poetry readings and boys vs. girls poetry slam. Everyone in class has something important to say, and in sharing their poetry, they learn that they all face challenges and have a story to tell—whether it's about health problems, aging out of foster care, being bullied for religious beliefs, or having to take on too much responsibility because of an addicted parent. As Darrian and his classmates get to know one another through poetry, they bond over the shared experiences and truth that emerge from their writing, despite their private struggles and outward differences.
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  • OverDrive Read
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Copies-
  • Available:
    1
  • Library copies:
    1
Levels-
  • ATOS:
  • Lexile:
    630
  • Interest Level:
  • Text Difficulty:
    2 - 3

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Awards-
Excerpts-
  • From the book Prologue

    I check out Mr. Ward's classroom early, find dark walls covered with poetry hanging in picture frames bright as jelly beans.
    Who wrote all these poems? And where exactly does Open Mike Friday take place?
    My eyes travel the room until I notice a low stage, off to the side. It's not very big, but there's a spotlight hanging overhead, and in the center of the stage is a microphone just begging for somebody to grab it. Me? I'm a newspaperman. What am I even doing here?
    I look back over the last week, trace the thinking that brought me to this class.
    Like every other day, a week ago started off with breakfast.


    Darrian Lopez

    BREAKFAST ON THE BOUNCE FOR FATHER AND SON

    ¡Perfecto! If I was writing a story about this morning, that would be my headline. I drop two waffles into the toaster, smiling to myself. Papi looks up from El Diario, wondering why. I shake my head, sorry he's reading the wrong paper. For me, it's the New York Times. The old man is cool otherwise, though, driving a city bus double shifts sometimes just so he can keep replacing the clothes I grow out of. He doesn't say much, but he loves me enough for two.
    I wash one waffle down with milk, grab the other for the road, and head out of the door.
    "Later, Papi."

    On the way to school, I run into Zeke and Shorty, guys from my neighborhood. As usual, they're talking smack.
    "You watch, Shorty," spouts Zeke. "I'm gonna be the biggest thing in hip-hop since Heavy D."
    "What you been smokin'?" counters Shorty. "You can't even sing! But me? I got serious moves on the court, plan on bein' the next Kobe Bryant. Look out!"
    They laugh to take the edge off of dreaming bigger than they believe. I keep my dreams to myself. I don't need their laughter. Besides, I have to pay attention to these cracked sidewalks so I don't trip or step on broken whiskey bottles or the dirty syringes that turn up everywhere.
    "So, what you plan on doing to get your Black ass outta the Bronx?" Zeke asks me.
    "You mean my Puerto Rican ass." I've told Zeke a million times, I'm not Black.
    "Quit lying! You Black. You just got an accent," he says every time. And every time, I shake my head.
    For the record, my mother's not Black. My father's not Black. I'm. Not. Black. We are Puertorriqueño. Boricuas. From the island. But what the hell. Black and Brown people all get treated the same, anyway.
    I look at Zeke and shrug, then jog ahead, disappearing around the corner.

    BROWN BOY BETRAYS RACE

    That's what they'd say if they knew I planned on writing for the New York Times. Let's face it, some of those papers got a bad habit of getting Black and Brown stories wrong. We all know it. But I figure the only way to get our stories straight is by writing them ourselves. So I'll get in there, show them how it's done.
    Yeah. Only I'm not sure how exactly to get started.
    I whip out my notebook, flip past the last local news story I wrote, and scribble: See Mr. Winston for help.
    Writing my plans down makes them feel solid. I smile all the rest of the way to school.

    Lunch bell rings just in time. Stomach's growling loud enough to wake the dead. I jump up, head for the door. The Times lying unfolded on the teacher's desk stops me cold.
    ...
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    November 20, 2017
    Grimes adroitly orchestrates a chorus of emotional teenage voices in this thought-provoking companion to the Coretta Scott King Award–winning Bronx Masquerade (2001). A summer has passed since the events of the previous book, and English teacher Mr. Ward has a new crop of culturally diverse students learning the art of poetry. Junior Darrian Lopez, who wants to be a newspaperman someday, is eager to uncover the backgrounds of his classmates. Grimes uses him as a kind of conductor, introducing readers to (and reflecting on the situations of) students whose stories unfold through snippets of conversation, inner monologues, and the poems they compose. Among them are foster child Jenesis, who faces an uncertain future once she turns 18; angry Marcel, whose father has been unjustly incarcerated; and overworked Freddie, caretaker for her alcoholic mother and six-year old niece. While underscoring the difficulties these teens face, Grimes’s economical writing provides glimmers of hope, showing how forming bonds of trust and finding the courage to speak one’s truth can help ease emotional pain and bring salvation. Ages 12–up.

  • School Library Journal

    December 1, 2017

    Gr 7 Up-Darrian Lopez eats, sleeps, and breathes the life of a star reporter. His dreams of writing the real stories of black and brown people are surpassed only by his dream of writing for the New York Times. Darrian decides to join a poetry class after having a conversation about journalism with the school librarian. He initially joins the class to become a better observer and reporter. He believes the students in the class will provide excellent material for his budding reporter's mind. Darrian's opinion of and appreciation for poetic expression grows as he gets to know his classmates through their verses. These complex students use poetry to find their truest voices and write their own stories. This is the companion novel to the award-winning book Bronx Masquerade. Darrian is a reliable narrator and operates as the glue that ties all the other narratives together. Each character occupies his or her own space and no one character or voice monopolizes the story. The narratives of immigrants, foster children, families effected by incarceration, and teens taxed with familial burdens are thoroughly explored in a thought-provoking way. The poems and voices are a perfect blend of the many facets of American teens' lives. VERDICT An excellent companion book that lends itself easily to a teacher's poetry unit, this is great choice for school and public libraries.-Desiree Thomas, Worthington Library, OH

    Copyright 2017 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    December 15, 2017
    A new group of students join Mr. Ward's poetry class in the companion novel to Bronx Masquerade (2003).A group of black, white, Asian, and Latinx high school students in Mr. Ward's class practice the art of poetry in preparation for a weekly open-mike reading each Friday. Through poetry, the students navigate their concerns and fears about themselves, their families, and their futures. As they prepare for the class's culminating event--a poetry slam competition--the students bond and grow more comfortable revealing themselves through their poems. Each student's story is introduced and explored in rotating first-person chapters. There's brown (not black) Puerto Rican Darrian, an aspiring journalist who lost his mother to cancer; 16-year-old Jenesis, a blue-eyed, blonde, black girl who worries what will happen when she ages out of the foster-care system at 18; Chinese-American Li, who hides her love of poetry from her parents; African-American Marcel, whose father wasn't the same when he returned home from prison; and several others. Unfortunately, the characters' personal struggles remain largely static throughout the novel, and there's no overarching plot or compelling conflict among them. Much of the dialogue feels forced and doesn't ring true as the voices of present-day teens; aside from a few poignant moments, the students' poetry tends to be heavy-handed. Although it may not satisfy as a novel, its characters will no doubt resonate with teen readers who share their struggles and aspirations. (Fiction. 12-16)

    COPYRIGHT(2017) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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    Penguin Young Readers Group
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