Grade 6 Up-By offering glimpses into George Washington Carver's life story through a series of lyrical poems, the structure of Nelson's book is as inspired as its occasional use of black-and-white photographs as illustrations. The poems are simple, sincere, and sometimes so beautiful they seem not works of artifice, but honest statements of pure, natural truths ("The Prayer of Miss Budd" and "Lovingly Sons," in particular). Ironically, the book's greatest strength, its writing, is also occasionally its weakness. In a few of the poems the language and the structure seem haphazard and these selections come across as underwritten ("Odalisque," "1905") or as little better than notes for selections yet to come ("Driving Dr. Carver," "Letter to Mrs. Hardwick"). Still, students will find much to glean from this volume and many of the poems will be perfect for reading aloud and make good monologues. A final grace note: the book will undoubtedly encourage some young people to learn more about this remarkable man.
Herman Sutter, Saint Agnes Academy, Houston, TX
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
One of the very few black Americans accorded great respect before the 1960s was botanist and educator George Washington Carver (1864?-1943). In a fine biography in poems, Nelson beautifully and movingly revives his reputation, made to seem paltry compared with that of such resuscitated firebrands as Garvey, Robeson, and DuBois. She traces Carver from his recovery after being kidnapped in infancy to his death while the famous Tuskegee airmen fill the campus on which he had worked since 1896 with the droning of aircraft. The life in between is characterized by hard work, intellectual curiosity, personal humility, devotion to the betterment of black Americans, enormous self-possession, and practical Christian piety. Nelson stints none of those characteristics in depicting Carver as good but not self-righteous, dedicated but not monomaniacal, invaluable but not self-important. She also renders Carver's context nontendentiously, in some poems conjuring racism at its worst and in others showing that particular whites helped Carver throughout his life. Historic photos illustrate Nelson's work with modest beauty. Ray Olson
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