Behind the Wheel: Driving Poems

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9780689825316: Behind the Wheel: Driving Poems

Forget kindergarten,
sharing.

Everything you need to know

you learn right here
behind the wheel.

So begins the title poem of this collection for young adults in which Janet S. Wong looks at driving as a metaphor for life. Through thirty-six poems that range in subject from passing the written driver's test and borrowing a car, to parallel parking and being pulled over by a cop, to car accidents and parents' anxieties, the poet succeeds in touching on all the subjects of concern to young people -- love, death, hopes and dreams.

Contemporary, honest, and direct, these poems offer a fresh approach to a subject of deep interest to today's young people.

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About the Author:

Janet S. Wong is the author of more than a dozen picture books and poetry collections. Her work includes Night Garden: Poems from the World of Dreams, a New York Times Best Illustrated Book, and Knock on Wood: Poems About Superstitions, both illustrated by Julie Paschkis, as well as Grump, a Charlotte Zolotow Award Highly Commended Book, illustrated by John Wallace. Janet lives with her family in Medina, Washington.

From Booklist:

Gr. 7^-up. "Forget kindergarten, / sharing. / Everything you need to know / you learn right here / behind the wheel." As in her previous poetry collections, Wong uses simple, personal free verse to explore the spaces between family and self, this time through distilled moments in the car and on the road. In one poem, a grandchild connects a car crash with the financial crash that took her grandmother's savings; in another, a daughter criticizes her father for picking up a hitchhiker and, in her sullenness, realizes she looks "not at all like my father's daughter." The poems are mostly intimate, first-person monologues, but there are some narrated vignettes and very funny radical suggestions for reshaping the rules of the road (in "Insurance for Teenage Drivers: A New Plan," the speaker suggests that, as punishment for violations, young offenders should: "Direct traffic, / head shaved bald . . . flanked by parents / dressed in pajamas"). Wong's brief, clear lines will be accessible even to the most reluctant poetry readers, and readers of all ages will be moved by the intersection of poignancy and humor as she describes the thrilling freedom of the car and an emerging adult's awareness that, although she's traveled, her road still leads to home. Gillian Engberg

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Janet S. Wong
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