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Children’s Book Committee – March Pick

March 7, 2016


My Seneca Village
by Marilyn Nelson
(Namelos, 2015)

2016 Claudia Lewis Award Winner

The residents, most of whom were free African Americans, of an early 19th-century New York City neighborhood that was razed to create Central Park relate the stories of their lives. Various verse forms. Prose introductions and notes. (11–14)

Our Young Reviewer says:

My Seneca Village is a book of poems for young adult readers. Taking names from census records, Nelson uses poems as a narrative that recreates Seneca Village. Seneca Village was a mid-nineteenth century shantytown comprised of New York City’s first substantial community of African-American property owners and of Irish and German immigrants in what is now Central Park. The poems follow the lives of several characters, ranging from a schoolboy who becomes a sailor to a young woman of mixed racial descent, from 1825 to 1857, when the City of New York used eminent domain to seize the land. Nelson writes perfect poems for the young adult reader: they are not too complex, require no information (that Nelson does not provide) to enjoy, create an emotional effect that swings between despair and hopefulness, and are written mostly in simple forms, such as quatrains. Also, every poem that Nelson writes about a certain character is in the same tone; this helps the reader understand the story. The inclusion of a description of the setting and characters of each poem on the page opposite the poem further facilitates the storytelling.

– Foster, 16, Anchorage, AK

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