Poe Park by Agnes Martinez

Poe ParkReading level: 4.1
Lexile: 550
Genre: Realistic fiction
ELL-Friendly: Depends…
Library recommendation: Middle school

Goodreads summary:

Enoch Morales is graduating from elementary school and moving into fiesta mood. Adios land of little kids. Hel-lo summer! But as Enoch says, “Just when you think you have it made. It’s like, ‘Got ya.'” The summer has barely started when a terrible event upsets his world, and he must try to overcome difficult conditions.

My ARC copy of Poe Park says “A First Novel” on the cover, which I assume means it’s an introductory novel for young kiddos. It’s a short book at 150 pages and at a 4th grade reading level. As “easy” as the book is to read, it’s got some heavy content.

Poe Park is narrated by an eleven-year-old boy whose family is from Puerto Rico who faces a tragedy and then some. It just keeps getting worse and worse for him. It ends on a bright(ish) note, but it’s a bit of a downer, however realistic it is. Martinez may have written this book to reflect her own experiences growing up in the Bronx with gang violence and poverty.

Poe Park is incredibly realistic and thought-provoking. Despite Enoch being raised by a caring and supportive mother and living a pretty sheltered life, we watch as Enoch’s life crumbles as he turns to violence. As an educator, friend, and human, Poe Park made me remember how helpless I am while also pointing out that one person can make a difference.

There’s quite a bit of Spanish throughout the book. I’d almost say that unless you’re a strong reader and/or know Spanish, this book will be tricky. There are colloquialisms along with the Spanish, so, for ELLs, I’d recommend it most for Spanish-speakers who are intermediate to advanced/transitional. It might even be good for high schoolers learning to speak English, because although the narrator/main character is eleven, his brother is much older and is a big part of the second half of the book.

Poe Park is my sixth book of the 2014 TBR Pile Reading Challenge hosted by Bookish.

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