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A Fire in My Hands by HOUGHTON MIFFLIN HARCOURTName: A Fire in My Hands
Company: HOUGHTON MIFFLIN HARCOURT
Age: 12 and up
Price: $16
Category: Books

What Is It?
Exploring the everyday moments of life, author and poet Gary Soto uses words of wonder inspired by his youth in California´s Central Valley to create rich poems. They move with direct and vivid prose that brims with emotions. This critically acclaimed collection revisits favorite poems and introduces new ones — some humorous, some heartfelt, all memorable.
 
What We Thought
I loved this book. The poems don’t rhyme and only provide a brief snapshot of who Soto was as a young man. Each poem spans a mere one to two pages and includes a short introduction from Soto. For instance, he presents his poem “All the Luck” with “In high school I nursed my loneliness by the school fountain where others like me sat with nothing to do. I was seventeen.” His poems are stark and yet lyrical at the same time, all either slightly tragic or somewhat uplifting. In “All the Luck,” for example, he talks of his being in love with the homecoming queen who was in love with “some muscle in a letterman’s jacket” while he “wore a hairnet and served chili beans.” He studies cells in his biology class and then goes to his fountain to find trash floating in it while the homecoming queen sails by on a float. He sheds a tear, one would conclude, because he feels more connected to the trash on the water than the beautiful girl on the float, though they are both comprised of the same organic matter. Yet, rather than overtly state this, Soto just presents the details, gives hints to his emotions, and lets the reader feel each scene on his or her own.
 
Why They’ll Want It
Because these poems read like brief narratives, they are easy for everyone from children to adults to embrace. Soto’s sparing use of imagery and his discussion of familiar topics makes the poetry universally easy to understand. Yet, as readers grow and revisit the poems over the years, they will invariably find new meanings in the words. It’s the kind of book that won’t gather too much dust sitting on a family’s shelf.
— Vanessa VanderZanden, 4/05/06


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