Center for Children's Literature Blog

Children’s Book Committee – June 2023 Pick

Augusta Savage: The Shape of a Sculptor’s Life
Author: Marilyn Nelson
Publisher: Christy Ottaviano Books/Little, Brown and Company

A gifted sculptor and teacher flourishes during the 1930’s Harlem Renaissance. Free verse, concrete poems. Photographs of sculpture. Back matter, biography.

Our Young Reviewer Says:

“Overall, this was a well written book detailing the life of Augusta Savage through the use of free verse, concrete poems, and photographs of Savage’s art. I hadn’t known much about Augusta Savage previous to reading, thus the book helped educate and describe her life, accompanied with various images of the artwork she created. Additionally, the use of concrete poems was especially impactful, as it drew attention to both the importance of the written lines and the overall, larger shape of the poem. For my first time reading a biography in the form of poems, it was a moving and captivating way of telling the story of Savage’s life.

Generally, the combination of free verse and concrete poems was very engaging and an interesting way of writing this biography of Augusta Savage’s life. Specifically, in regards to the concrete poems, they grabbed the reader’s attention, as there was meaning conveyed in both the words and the overall shape of the poems.”

–Sarabeth, age 16, New York, NY.

Our Young Reviewer Says:

“I  enjoyed the shifts between poetry and prose, depending on the character the author was writing about. I also enjoyed how the poetry about Savage’s sculptures were coupled with photographs of the sculptures. I thought that it gave the reader more insight into the poetry and it gave the sculptures more depth and meaning. I found the book special because of the writing style of the poetry. The poetry shifted from lyricism to staccato stanzas depending on the emotions that the author was trying to convey. The calligrams that appeared throughout the book added more visual depth to Savage’s emotions and life.

The language and structure made this book engaging because the poems in the book alternate between long and short stanzas, depending on the emotions that Savage is experiencing during each period of her life. Because of the varying of the language and structure, the poems are unique, and they make the book one that I couldn’t put down.”

–Vimala, age 15, Queens, New York, NY.

Winner: Claudia Lewis Award for Poetry
Children’s Book Committee: ⭐ 2023 Best Book of the Year with Outstanding Merit

Young people who are interested in reviewing are invited to do so as we welcome the individual perspective of our age appropriate readers. If you are interested in being a reviewer, contact

See our Monthly Picks Archive 2012–2018, and our Monthly Picks 2019–present.