Life Doesn't Frighten Me by Maya Angelou

Summary: Grade 3-6-A unique book that combines the words of a renowned African-American poet laureate and the primitive, modern paintings of a young Haitian-American artist. With lines of verse that shout exuberantly from each page, a young voice rails against any and all things that mean to do her harm. Whether they are "Shadows on the wall/ Noises down the hall" or even "Mean old Mother Goose/Lions on the loose"-to one and all she responds- "they don't frighten me at all." In the middle, the pace and intensity quicken as "I go boo/Make them shoo/I make fun/Way they run." Despite the scary things around her, the poet's determined courage remains. The art provides a jolting counterpoint to the optimistic words, reflecting a dark, intense vision. Violent splashes of color bleed and drip one into another, and white letters are scratched into black backgrounds. Stark figures with grotesque features face off against one another. Symbols such as arrows, birds, crowns, and letters emphasize the artist's anger and sense of irony. The choice of the paintings, taken as they were from an extant body of work, give levels of meanings to a poem already strong with images of its own. A powerful exploration of emotion and its expression through the careful blend of words and art. Jane Marino, White Plains Public Library, NY Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Classroom Implications: An idea for this book would be to pair it with other Maya Angelou's poems. Her poetry tends to be widely popular with middle school aged girls. This would be an excellent way to see her poetry different due to the picture book format.


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