“We were born before the wind Also younger than the sun Ere the bonnie boat was won as we sailed into the mystic. Hark, now hear the sailors cry Smell the sea and feel the sky Let your soul and spirit fly into the mystic.” -- Van Morrison (1970)
“KIDNAPPED BY ALIENS Marilyn Nelson
I was hiding in the bush when Papa got killed. His machete was no match for the aliens. Their weapons thundered as villagers screamed for their gods to hear them--be merciful. But the gods of the aliens were more powerful. Wherever they came from, their gods must have come with them.
At sunset, silence fell on our village. Thirst, hunger forced me to creep out into a nightmare of devastation. All I saw moving were chickens and skinny dogs nosing around for scraps. I put a cloth on Papa’s face. I closed my eyes to pray.
That’s when the aliens grabbed me. They marched us uphill and down, yelling in their language, pushing, lashing us, taking women into the woods, leaving behind the old. We reached a body of water as vast as the sky. They locked us for days in a huge house made of stones.
When they brought us out, sunlight blinded me. I followed others up a slanting ramp into the craft that had brought the aliens from wherever they came from to our peaceful world. That was my last glimpse of the world. In here darkness, sickness, clanking chains, whispering.
Where are they taking us? Will we be food? Did they come across the water? Did they come from a star? In the place they come from, is evil good? Will I ever see my mother again? My little sister? My brothers? My best friend? I lie curled around terror, facing the blue unknown.”
As the end of summer approaches all too quickly, mention of the sea leads my mind to wander through childhood memories of idyllically bobbing in the water, the smell of salt, bright yellow mustard, collecting sea shells, swatting horseflies, and that annoying feeling of sand in my swimsuit as we’d drowsily ride home after a long day on the beach.
TRAVELING THE BLUE ROAD is not about any of those things. Rather than a feel-good summer book or a meditation on the beauty of sea and sand, it’s a powerful collection of poems for young readers about generations of people facing the vast unknown and power that is the sea. Sometimes they were facing it voluntarily, but oftentimes not.
Poetry anthologies have some similarities to what we used to call mix tapes. I’ve always been fond of both. When done well, they provide delicious introductions to artists whom you might not have otherwise encountered. TRAVELING THE BLUE ROAD includes poems by Margarita Engle, J. Patrick Lewis, Jane Yolen, Greg Neri, Allan Wolf, Georgia Heard, and more. Rebecca Kai Dotlich’s poem “SEA” introduces the collection, which has seven sections, each one covering a century, The poems flow from Paul Janeczko’s “VOYAGE” about Columbus, all the way through Naomi Shihab Nye’s “Mediterranean Blue,” about the contemporary refugee crisis. There’s not a clunker in the bunch.
In addition to gathering this notable collection of poems, Lee Bennett Hopkins has included interesting and relevant quotes and little snippets, such as the memorable first lines from my favorite Sharon Creech novel, THE WANDERER.
The theme of the illustrations is blue. Historical images merge with mixed media to create borderless illustrations upon which the poems are typeset.
“And it’s a fair wind blowin’ warm Out of the south, over my shoulder. Guess I’ll set a course and go.” -- Paul Kantner, David Crosby and Stephen Stills, “Wooden Ships” (1968)
For better or worse, humankind has forever interacted with the sea. TRAVELING THE BLUE ROAD will provide young readers with a lot to ponder about that relationship, while introducing them to some wonderful contemporary poets.
32 pages 978-1-63322-276-2 Ages 8-12