Monday, April 13, 2015

A Wreath for Emmett Till by Marilyn Nelson, illustrated by Philippe Lardy

This haunting and thought-provoking collection of sonnets is both an elegy for Emmett Till and a call to action.  Nelson urges the reader to remember and to bear witness to our country’s shame and horror and offers A Wreath for Emmett Till as a potential starting point.  In the book’s introduction, Nelson describes the heroic crown structure she used and her purpose in selecting such a strict poetic form.  Each of the fifteen interconnected poems is illustrated in vivid color by Lardy’s dynamic and symbol-laden paintings.  This book is not easy to read for many reasons including the difficulty of the subject matter and the complicated form full of literary and historical references.   Helpful backmatter includes a brief history of Emmett Till’s murder and the subsequent trial, notes on the allusions in each sonnet, and an artist’s note.  A Wreath for Emmett Till is a powerful resource for educators looking to tackle the murder of Emmett Till, the birth of the Civil Rights movement and the current state of race relations in the United States.--Regan Schwartz

A teacher’s guide from the publisher is available here.  A guide from Teaching Tolerance is available here.

Nelson, Marilyn, and Philippe Lardy. A Wreath For Emmett Till. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2005. Print

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