Angela Johnson, born June 18, 1961 in Tuskegee Alabama once commented: "I don't believe the magic of listening to Wilma Mitchell read us stories after lunch will ever be repeated for me. Book people came to life. They sat beside me in Maple Grove School. That is when I knew. I asked for a diary that year and have not stopped writing. My family, especially my grandfather and father, are storytellers and those spoken words sit beside me too.
"In high school I wrote punk poetry that went with my razor blade necklace. At that point in my life my writing was personal and angry. I didn't want anyone to like it. I didn't want to be in the school literary magazine, or to be praised for something that I really didn't want understood. Of course, ten years later, I hope that my writing is universal and speaks to everyone who reads it. I still have the necklace, though."
Johnson attended Kent State University and has worked with Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA), Ravenna, OH, as a child development worker, 1981-82; and is currently a free-lance writer of children's books.
The First Part Last
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"Author Angela Johnson follows up her
Coretta Scott King
this absorbing prequel about a single teen struggling to accept his new
Bobby is a typical urban New York City teenager -- impulsive, eager, restless. For his sixteenth birthday he cuts school with his two best buddies, grabs a couple of slices at his favorite pizza joint, catches a flick at a nearby multiplex, and gets some news from his girlfriend, Nia, that changes his life forever: He's going to be a father. Suddenly things like school and house parties and fun times with friends are replaced by visits to Nia's pediatrician and countless social workers who all say that the only way for Nia and Bobby to lead a normal life is to put their baby up for adoption. Then tragedy strikes Nia, and Bobby finds himself in the role of single, teenage father. Because his child -- their child -- is all that remains of his lost love.
With powerful language and keen insight, Johnson tells the story of a young man's struggle to figure out what "the right thing" is and then to do it. The result is a gripping portrayal of a single teenage parenthood from the point of view of a young on the threshold of becoming a man.
Date Published: August 1998
Winner of the 1999 Coretta Scott King Author Award. Marley has lived in heaven with her parents and her brother for 12 years since the accident. She can't imagine her life any other way, but she may have to. Does Marley have the perfect life, or is her life the perfect lie?What makes a person who she is? Is it her name, the people she lives with, or is blood the only link to identity? Marley, 14, suddenly plunges head first into these complex questions when she discovers that the people she's been living with her entire life aren't her real parents. Butchy is not her real brother, and her mysterious Uncle Jack, who has been writing her short but beautiful letters for as long as she can remember, turns out to be her real, very absent father. In spare, often poetic prose reminiscent of Patricia MacLachlan's work, Johnson relates Marley's insightful quest into what makes a family. Her extreme anger with her supposed parents, who turn out to be her aunt and uncle, for not telling her the truth, for not being the perfect family that she'd always thought them to be, wars with her knowledge that not even her friend Shoogy Maple's model family is as perfect and beautiful as it seems. The various examples of "family" Marley encounters make her question what's real, what's true, what makes sense, and if any of that really matters as much as the love she continues to feel for her parents in spite of their seeming betrayal. Johnson exhibits admirable stylistic control over Marley's struggle to understand a concept that is often impossible to understand or even to define. -- Linda Bindner, formerly at Athens Clarke County Library, Georgia
Other Side, The: Shorter Poems
Toning the Sweep
Winner of the 1994 Coretta Scott King Author
I Am Old with You
David Soman (Illustrator)
The bond between grandparent and grandchild transcends time, and sometimes transcends an adult's sense of logic, reaching a deeper level of truth. In this story, a small child imagines a future when he will be old with his Granddaddy and will sit beside him in a rocking chair and talk about everything. They will go fishing, drink cool water from a jug, and play cards ``till the lightning bugs shine in the trees.'' The poignant reality that time will never allow these two to coexist at the same age is softened by the fact that they do not have to be the same age in order to share happy times. What the boy dreams of doing with his Granddaddy someday are the same things that they are doing now. This tender story is complemented by Soman's beautifully executed watercolors, which vibrate with life and love. The African-American child and grandfather are distinct individuals, yet also universal figures, recognizable to anyone who has ever shared the bond of family love across generations. --Anna DeWind, Milwaukee Public Library (School Library Journal)