Thursday, April 18, 2013


I've just spent some quality time with WHEN THUNDER COMES: Poems for Civil Rights Leaders by J. Patrick Lewis with illustrations by Jim Burke, R. Gregory Christie, Tonya Engel, John Parra, and Meilo So.

I really like the variety of civil rights leaders featured here. And while I worried that the wide variety of illustration may take away from the continuity of the book, that wasn't the case. At least not for me!

My favorite poem/illustration pair features Mitsuye Endo, Japanese American interned durning WWII, 1920-2006. This basic information is provided for each leader on the bottom right-hand corner of the page. More detailed information is included in the backmatter, which allows for a great jumping-off point for readers who want to discover more about these amazing individuals.

And here is the poem I love best:

The Captive
by J. Patrick Lewis

I was a typist, nothing more.
I loved my life, I hated war.

But it was war that stole from me
My job, my life, serenity.

They put me in a hateful house --
Internment camp -- and I, a mouse,

Refused to squeak like most of these
One hundred thousand Japanese,

Until the day I told the man
What constant thoughts my heart began:

I am a typsit, nothing more,
and I am no conspirator!

For 18 months, they tired the sun
With talking. In the end, I won

The freedom to resume all three:
My job, my life, serenity.

Those of you who frequent my blog should find this choice as no surprise. I am often drawn to poems that explore the themes of captivity and freedom. And how great is "they tired the sun/ With talking." ?? Nice! And shout-out to John Parra, whose illustration is perfect for the poem. You can see it in John's portfolio here.

And now for some under sea fun: Greg at Gotta Book has an original, unpublished poem of mine as part of his annual National Poetry Month celebration, 30 Poets/30 Days project. It's called "The Octopus Postcards." Give it a read!


  1. Yes, I was struck by "they tired the sun/ With talking" also. Thanks so much for sharing this, Irene.

  2. The subject is important and the rhythm is great.
    Thanks for sharing, Irene.

  3. I loved this book. It is such a gem.


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