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A WREATH FOR EMMETT TILL by Marilyn Nelson, illustrated by Philippe Lardy

Posted in reviewku: plunder, middle grade, reviewku: poetry (all)


Heroic crown. True.

Sonnets. Lynching. Innocence.

History. Legacy.


Nitty Gritty:

Middle grade / YA (grades 9 and up)

Verse novel – fifteen sonnets

Third person POV

Historical fiction

Biography / Memory

Setting – 1955 Mississippi

Story revolves around historic character – 14 year old Emmett Till

Form: linked set of sonnets — known as heroic crown

Pain and grief of story of young boy’s lynching expressed without unnecessary gruesome detail through poetic form

Historical details — true story of African American boy lynched for saying the wrong thing to a white woman

Themes — lynching as a spark for civil rights movement of 1950s

Strict meter (iambic pentameter)

Set form (a heroic crown of sonnets)

Hints of Homeric epic poetry, but personal rather than heroic arcs (as an epic)

Strict form shields author and readers from intense pain while expressing intense emotion