Friday, December 12, 2014

Poetry Friday with a review of I and I: Bob Marley

When I was in Jamaica some years ago I heard a lot of Bob Marley's music. The Jamaicans are proud of their famous countryman, and with good reason. Back then I had no idea what Bob Marley had been like as a person, what his life had been like. I was therefore delighted to receive today's poetry title, which uses poems to tell the story of this special musician.

I and I: Bob MarleyI and I: Bob Marley
Tony Medina
Illustrated by Jesse Joshua Watson
Poetry Picture Book
For ages 6 to 8
Lee and Low Books, 2009, 978-1-60060-257-3
Several generations of people have grown up hearing the songs of Bob Marley, and even today’s young children know the tune that goes with the words “Don’t worry about a thing, ‘cause every little thing is gonna be alright!” There is something about the words from his songs that have touched the hearts of many, a universality that spreads far from the shores of Bob’s Marley homeland in Jamaica. In this book the story of this remarkable man is told using poems that are constructed in such a way that we can almost hear the beat of music in the background. Throughout the book the author uses some of the elements found in Jamaica’s patois to give his poems a genuine authenticity. He also tells Bob Marley’s story using the first person so that we feel that we are hearing the musician speaking, or perhaps singin, to us.
   We hear about how Bob Marley is born in a small village, the son of a “country girl shy as can be” and a white man who “Rode off on a horse the color of a pearl” when Bob is still a very small boy. For a time Bob lives quietly in the country with his mother until his father “sends for me.” Dressed in his “church clothes” the boy travels to Kingston in a bus so that he can live with his father and go to school.
   He soon learns that his father has no intention of being his parent. The man leaves, and Bob’s elderly caregiver is so unwell that Bob is the one who takes care of the house and does the shopping, cooking and cleaning. Eventually, a year after his father left, Bob’s mother finds him and she takes him back to the family home in the village of Nine Miles.
   Several years later Bob, his mother, and her new husband come back to Kingston and live in a squalid ghetto called Trenchtown. Bob’s mother worries that her son will get into trouble if he hangs out with the “rude boys,” but he reassures her that he will “follow my own beat” and he is sure that “Music will get me out of the rubble.”
   With their evocative words and rhythm, the poems in this book tell a story of a man and capture a moment in time. At the back of the book readers will find notes that provide additional information about the poems and the story that they are telling.

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