Cover image for The other side : Shorter poems
The other side : Shorter poems
Johnson, Angela.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Orchard Books, 1998.
Physical Description:
xiii, 44 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
A collection of poems reminiscent of growing up as an African-American girl in Shorter, Alabama.
Reading Level:
870 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG 4.7 0.5 70166.

Reading Counts RC 6-8 3.8 3 Quiz: 17742 Guided reading level: N.
Geographic Term:

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS3560.O37129 O8 1998 Juvenile Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
PS3560.O37129 O8 1998 Juvenile Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Series of poems about the author's memories of Shorter, Alabama, a small Southern town that was torn down after the author had grown and moved away. But her memories of the town linger. The poems are poignant, vivid snapshots of a Southern, simple, rural, hard, and hard-loving way of life with topics from race relations to remembering Grandmama.

Author Notes

Angela Johnson was born on June 18, 1961 in Tuskegee, Alabama. She attended Kent State University and worked with Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) as a child development worker. She has written numerous children's books including Tell Me a Story, Mama, Shoes like Miss Alice, Looking for Red, A Cool Moonlight and Lily Brown's Paintings. She won the Coretta Scott King Author's Award three times for Toning the Sweep in 1994, for Heaven in 1999, and for The First Part Last in 2004, which also won the Michael L. Printz Award. In 2003, she was named a MacArthur fellow.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 7^-12. Before the town of Shorter, Alabama, went the way of many small towns in the U.S., Johnson was beckoned by her grandmother to visit one last time: "They're pulling Shorter down ... come see your past before it's all dust, baby." In this collection of poems, Johnson recalls portions of her childhood in Shorter, paying tribute to the people, places, and experiences of a beloved past. As she visits the places of her childhood, her memories unfold--dancing to hip-hop music in the woods, getting caught with her first cigarette, piano lessons with Miss Delta, voting, a father still shell-shocked from Vietnam, her eventual move to Ohio. From the first poem to the last, these deeply personal writings move the reader to feel Johnson's love of Shorter, her childhood, and her sense of loss as the town disappears. With a scattering of photos, this short collection packs a powerful punch. --Helen Rosenberg

Publisher's Weekly Review

Decorated with blurred photographs from a family album, this touching collection focuses on the denizens of Shorter, Ala., a town that is due to be leveled because of "some big company wanting to make a dog track." The 14-year-old narrator returns at the bidding of her grandmother ("Come see your past before it's all/ dust, baby"), and her journey back is the impetus for a series of nostalgic poems that describe her experiences at various ages‘a disastrous attempt at piano lessons, the smell of soap at the Wash-a-Teria, leaving the South for the Midwest. The swift, thumbnail character sketches are almost entirely devoid of metaphors‘as if these family stories had been broken into line lengths to be read aloud like eloquent monologues (e.g., "Me and Kesha Cousins used to dance to hip-hop music/ in the woods"). The African American narrator's use of poetry to portray the townspeople gives the reader a sharply defined view of a disappearing childhood. Images of her great-great-grandmama ("a voodoo woman who knew potions./ All kinds"), the scar her uncle received when he tried to order from a lunch counter in Montgomery ("how terrible it was/ and how beautiful/ it made him"), her father's Vietnam nightmares ("he/ used to yell that he couldn't/ get the blood off")‘all offer readers an unforgettable view of an insightful young woman growing up in the South. Ages 10-up. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 5-7-These verses take readers into Johnson's world, as she provides glimpses of her years growing up in the small town of Shorter, AL. Through prose poetry and colloquial speech, she recalls skinny-dipping, the soft Alabama breeze, dirt roads, and red dusty porches. Johnson presents vivid images-mothers stripping their children in the Wash-a-Teria to clean their clothes; houses smelling of "cinnamon and dead flowers;" getting up enough nerve to ask the secret of growing old. She touches on issues such as Vietnam, racism, and the Black Panthers, but also recalls dancing in the woods with a "Boom box blasting through the trees." This slim volume may just open up increased awareness and understanding about the way things were-and sometimes how they still are-for African Americans.-Sharon Korbeck, Waupaca Area Public Library, WI (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Prefacep. xii
Red Dirtp. 1
Pullin' Shorter Downp. 2
Shorterp. 3
Partyp. 4
Wash-a-Teriap. 5
Politicsp. 6
Votingp. 7
Grandmamap. 8
Piano Lessonsp. 9
Death Chestp. 10
Ghost Housesp. 12
Hiding Placep. 13
Warp. 14
Miss Annie Morganp. 15
Working the Rootsp. 16
Looksp. 17
Horsesp. 18
Smoking with T. Fannyp. 19
The Other Sidep. 20
Dancing in the Moonlightp. 21
The New Housep. 22
Walterp. 24
Crazyp. 26
Sirensp. 28
Countersp. 30
Into the Lightp. 32
On the Stepsp. 34
Gettin' Oldp. 35
Miss Pearlp. 36
War IIp. 38
Country Girlp. 40
Ninetiesp. 42
Where You Beenp. 43