Friday, April 30, 2010

34. Amiri & Odette

Myers, Walter. Amiri & Odette A Love Story. ISBN: 978-0-590-68041-7. Scholastic Press. First Edition, 2009.

Plot Summary

Amiri and Odette is a poetic narrative inspired by the Swan Lake Ballet. In this urban adaptation, readers follow the difficult struggle for two young teenagers to find love in the violent world of the Swan Lake Projects. The male protagonist Amiri, finds peace and strength through the game of basketball. Amiri's mother knows the hardships of the Swan Lake Projects firsthand and also how important it is to find a love that's true. She decides to throw her son a party with proper boys and girls so that Amiri can meet the girl that is right for him. This happens earlier than expected when one day after a basketball game he spies a beautiful young girl named Odette dancing amongst a flock of other girls. He walks up to her and they meet in a flurry of poetic language. Amiri invites Odette to his party, and the two teens declare their love for one another. The only problem with this is that Odette is the property of the neighborhood drug dealer Big Red. The showdown between Big Red and Amiri is inevitable for the hand of the beautiful Odette.

Critical Evaluation
Author Walter Dean Myers transports the Swan Lake ballet to the urban, and violent world of the Swan Lake Projects. Myers replaces the ballet's male dancers with basketball players, and the ballerina's with hip hop dancers. His depiction of the ballet is beautiful while at the same time dangerous, and tragic. Myers juxtaposes a young and pure love in an environment where that love struggles to take flight. His princess Odette is the property of the neighborhood drug dealer Big Red, and she is wonderfully depicted with different swan influences in artist Javaka Steptoe's artwork. Odette wears a gold swan necklace, and at one point is illustrated in an array of angelic white wings. Myer's prince Amiri, wants to save his swan from the clutches of her capture. The wonderful rhyme scheme and stunning language of Myers' poetic composition, reads with a beauty that is reminiscent of the young love he portrays.

The sincerity and gentleness of Myer's sentences are contrasted with the street-inspired artwork that accompanies the poem. Illustrator Javaka Steptoe captures the action of the story by using acrylic paints on actual slabs of city concrete. His images look and feel like the urban environment in which the story takes place. This signature touch gives the poem a very personal and rugged look. Despite the rugged medium, there is a certain beauty in his layered compositions, that helps accentuate the theme that beauty and love can emerge from the world's darkest places. Myers also incorporates real jewelry, actual feathers, and newspaper clipping into his layered concrete art, which provides a heightened sense of realism, depth, and texture. The very urban feel of the artwork and language is accentuated even further with the composition of graffiti like text, presented in various colors and sizes. The words that are in larger text are emphasized, contrasted against solid colored backgrounds. All of these artistic devices enhance Myers' story and make it the true piece of art that it is.

Reader's Annotation
Welcome to the Swan Lake Projects, where pure young love can exist in world of unpredictable violence and drug dealers.

Author Information

Some of the most difficult times for African American author Walter Dean Myers were during his teen years. Growing up in the Bronx, his life revolved around the church and neighborhood activities. Myers considered himself a smart kid growing up, but he would later drop out of high school. With the advice of one of his teachers, he kept writing despite his exit from school, and he used his teen years as inspiration for his work. Myer's has published over 30 different fiction and nonfiction titles in his career, and has been awarded the Coretta Scott King award for authorship five times. Myer's has written many popular young adult titles such as Monster, Shooter, and Fallen Angels.



Curriculum Tie
poetry, ballet

Reading Level

Grades 8+

Book Talking Ideas

What does the avian imagery suggest?
Discuss the hardships of life in the Bronx for Amiri and Odette.

Challenge Issues

Challenge defense ideas:
1. Make sure you are familiar with your library collection and the book in question.
2. Be familiar with your library collection policy.
3. If possible, speak with the person challenging the material and make sure they feel comfortable. Ask the customer what they disliked or disapproved of in the resource. If they still insist on challenging the material give them instructions on how to file a formal complaint.
4. Research professional reviews that speak to the material's merit, and get input from teen readers on why they found the book important.

Reason For Selection
Poetry for teens is an area of young adult literature that I am very unfamiliar with. I wanted to includes as much poetry as possible for this blog assignment to make myself more familiar with what is out there for teen readers.

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