Reviews for Tough Boy Sonatas

Booklist Reviews 2007 February #1
/*Starred Review*/ In his debut offering for youth, Crisler presents a collection of potent, hard-hitting poems about growing up in Gary, Indiana. Written mostly in voices of young African American males, the poems evoke the grit and ash of crumbling, burned-out streets as well as the realities of hardscrabble life: "confrontation is all up yo' ass and in / yo' face at the same time." Many poems speak of terrifying violence; other selections talk about the struggles to claim a mature, male identity: "With faint / taint of milk breath and / small milk mustache / we want to be the alpha / male, with the balls / to take on those / out-there things." Written with skillful manipulation of sound, rhythm, and form, the poems are filled with sophisticated imagery and graphic words (including the "n" word), and Cooper's illustrations extend, rather than distract from, the poems' impact. Created in sooty black and gray, the powerful drawings are mostly portraits of anguished young men. The speakers represent voices that are rare in books for youth, and their furious yearning for justice, love, safety, sex, and a good education is unforgettable, as is their hope in what Crisler calls hell: "I never felt poor like my poor / neighbors 'cause I had my crazy family." ((Reviewed February 1, 2007)) Copyright 2007 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2007 Fall
Thirty-nine powerful poems, most voiced by young African American males from Gary, Indiana, (all written by Crisler) offer a graphic, intimate look at growing up in a world of violence, both random and calculated. Cooper's portraits, in charcoal and brown tones with highlights of color, display the anger and sadness of these "tough boys" who are shouting out to be heard. Copyright 2007 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

School Library Journal Reviews 2007 March

Gr 8 Up-- In this collection of 38 poems, an unflinching narrative offers a view of the boys who run within the confines of the industrial town of Gary, IN. Their lives, unknown to the "groggy commuters" who flash by on the train, are harsh and difficult, bold and passionate. There's LaRoy, who sings, "i am not a failing flashlight. i am an inspired/inspiration….they know I have/hope, and hope kills…"; the classroom daydreamer who feels that the lopsided view of history he is being taught is whitewashing away his chances to be a contender; and Millicent, the tomboy who crushes with her snarl and good right cross. A grandson is hurting under the lost smile of an addicted grandmother, tough boys get nods of approval from the grown-ups when they learn the art of chops, of jive "…they'd smile to let us know when we had it/down like aristotle and shakespeare/and anansi. And if we could tough it/out we would be something more than/dead carcasses on delaney avenues;/we could become hopeful parents,/first-generation homeowners,/someone's recovered faith,/one project under a groove." These poems are muscular and vivid, fierce with the sound and force of language. Cooper's dreamlike, muted illustrations are a fine counterpoint to the rugged terrain of these young people's experiences.--Susan Moorhead, New Rochelle Public Library, NY

[Page 225]. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.