Citation: Hopkins, L. B., & Soentpiet, C. K. (2015). Amazing Faces. New York, NY: Lee & Low Books.
Overall Review: Amazing Faces is a collection of poems by different poets about a unifying theme—the universal expression of the face. Though each poem describes a unique person, circumstance, or emotion, they are all extremely relatable, regardless of age, gender, or other unique factors. Each work focuses on a piece of the rich tapestry of emotion that is the human experience from a mother reflecting on the beauty and hope she sees in her baby’s face to a lonely child shunned by his peers and everything else in between. Though complex themes and emotions that children may not be able to relate to personally are explored, they are done in a way that is appealing and accessible to children. This is an anthology that could be explored as a child and returned to again and again to find new layers of meaning.
This collection features both well known poets like Nikki Grimes and Jane Yolen and relatively unknown poets, at least to those unfamiliar with the world of children’s poetry, such as Jude Mandell and Tom Robert Shields. Each poem is unique in style and the emotions it elicits. Some show the innocence and endearing nature of family relationships or young love while others deal with more difficult emotions like the poem I will explore below. Because the works range in complexity, this is a good collection to introduce to poetry lovers and novices alike. Some can be understood from a single reading while others will take some time to analyze.
While some works like “Amazing Face” and “A Young Soldier” are not specifically about childhood experiences from a child’s perspective, they are still accessible to children because they are things they might have experienced. Almost every work is written from the eyes of a child and is about regular experiences and musings of children. These two are unique in that they are told form an adult’s perspective.
Spotlight Poem: “A Young Soldier” by Prince Redcloud
A young soldier
miles of memories
This is one of the most difficult poems in Amazing Faces. As an adult, I connected strongly with its content. A child may not fully grasp the subtle mention of the horrors of war and potential for PTSD that “miles of memories” adds to the poem. They might not understand the true heartbreak of the “heartbreaking boyish grin” as the family welcoming him home knows, under their relief and joy of having him home, if only vaguely, he has experienced great trauma. Even without the emotional maturity to fully grasp the depth of the emotional impact of this poem, it is a great one to facilitate a discussion of missing family, happiness at reunions, and the apparent simplicity of poetry. Through this concise poem of only 15 words, the poet has taken us on a deeply emotional journey simply by choosing the right 15 words to deliver the greatest impact and fit the theme.
Take 5 Activity:
- Discuss how many families have one or more members deployed around the world and what that means. Read the poem slowly, pausing between each stanza.
- Talk about when people don’t use many words and the emotions that that could point to—sadness, shyness, etc.
- Then, have everyone read the poem again together.
- Share Coming Home by Greg Ruth and discuss the connections between the two and fill in the story between the two.
- Have the children talk about when a family member came home after a long absence or when they saw a family member after a long time had passed and how it made them feel.