Corso, Paola. Vertical Bridges: Poems and Photographs of City Steps. Six Gallery Press, 2020. 978-1-989-30505-8. 137 p. $16.00. Grades 9 and up.
Steps connect people and places around the world. In Vertical Bridges: Poems and Photographs of City Steps, poet and native Pittsburger, Paola Corso, connects stories of strength and suffering, the past and the present, and family together through the motif of steps. She details the uniqueness of Pittsburgh’s steps (approximately 800 public sets) connecting neighborhood to neighborhood by exploring the history and people of this great city to the “steps” taken in life and the experience that makes each person. In her poem “Beginnings,” Corso moves through the history of Pittsburgh in each stanza and highlights change, the good and the bad, and ultimately connects change universally while focusing on the changing features of Pittsburgh. In later poems, Corso explores hauling water, the famous Spanish Steps in Rome, steps of love, death, faith, immigration, and much more. Mixed in with her poems are pictures of steps of various size, strength, and life. Each picture tells the story of what was, what is, and what can still be.
THOUGHTS: Although this book of poetry is very specific to Pittsburgh and the experiences of poet Paola Corso, it also takes readers on a journey around the world and connects one with the hardships and joys of life through the mundane: steps. This is a wonderful addition to school library collections in and around Pittsburgh and those looking to broaden their poetry collections. It is also a great text for teaching creative writing and using images with writing. My only disappointment with this text is how it is printed. The print makes some of the photographs hard to see and/or appear blurry. I would have liked glossy pages for the photos to bring them alive.
Kisner, Adrienne. Six Angry Girls. Feiwel and Friends. 2020. 978-1-250-25342-2. $17.99. 262 p. Grades 9-12.
Raina Petree got dumped by big crush boyfriend, Brandon. Emilia Goodwin got dumped by the pompous all-male Mock Trial Team. They join forces to salvage their senior year by forming an all-female Mock Trial Team in their Pittsburgh suburban high school of Steelton drawing on Raina’s drama skills and Millie’s knowledge of the law and research. Adapting the title of the 1950’s movie, Twelve Angry Men, these six angry girls (all but one Caucasian)––overcome heartbreak and self-esteem issues to create a strong challenge to their male counterparts and a serious threat to other Mock Trial Teams as they compete for Nationals. Told in alternating chapters narrated by either Raina or Millie, the book develops a girl power story with the message that people need to stand up for what is right and, especially, stand up for oneself. Author Adrienne Kisner also manages to weave in a subplot involving knitting. Raina searches for an outlet for her grief and joins the knitting group at The Dropped Stitch, a local yarn store. Not only does she learn to cast on and purl, she finds herself involved with activists trying to stop the election of a local magistrate because of his history letting off misogynists and blocking legislation for reproductive rights. Their rebellion manifests itself in yarn-bombing the courthouse with knitted female genitalia. In a twist, the targeted judge turns up volunteering in Mock Trial. At the knitting shop, Raina meets new student Grace who is happy to join an extracurricular activity. Millie falls for Grace and begins to value herself and her time, separating her needs from her helpless father who expects Millie to be chief cook and bottlewasher after her mother moves to Ohio. Though told in a light-hearted manner, the book addresses serious topics, contains a full-range of LBGTQ+ characters, and models the strengths and weaknesses of adults in young people’s lives. What begins as a revenge against the boys story builds with each club meeting, practice, and competition to a triumph of self-identity and self-worth.
Realistic Fiction Bernadette Cooke, School District of Philadelphia
THOUGHTS: The cover illustration depicts a diverse group of girls, but the two main characters are white. Author Adrienne Kisner is emphasizing gender identity: Millie and Grace form a romantic relationship; Izzy, a minor character, is transgender; the Mock Trial court case for the win centers on gender discrimination. Some parts to be aware of: The Dropped Stitch crew are not shy about using anatomically correct terms, and a smattering of curses appear throughout the dialogue, making it more a high school choice than middle grade. This book has the same feminist fight tone of Moxie by Jennifer Matthieu; and if this suburban, western Pennsylvanian high school resembles yours, Six Angry Girls is an attractive purchase.