The Tiny Journalist by Naomi Shihab Nye

Reviewed by Taylor H (Library Staff)

The Tiny Journalist by Naomi Shihab Nye is a collection of poems imagining Janna Jihad Ayyad, a young Palestinian who became a journalist at just seven years old. As stated in the author’s note, the poems also connect to the poet’s own experiences and research. I am on the fence with this book. There were some lines and poems that were quite beautiful, and there were some poems that just didn’t feel like poems. Many of the pieces are simple, which makes sense when they are from the perspective of a child. However, in my opinion, some are too simplistic in nature.

What I liked: There were some beautiful lines throughout. In “Moon Over Gaza,” the speaker says, “A landscape of grieving/feels different afterwards” (p. 19). I also loved these lines from “Losing as Its Own Flower” on pages 35-37:

Truth unfolds in the gardens,
massive cabbages, succulent tomatoes,
orange petals billowing
even when the drought is long.

Some of my favorite poems were “And That Mysterious Word Holy” (p. 32), “Dead Sea” (p. 43), and “Unforgettable” (p. 109). When I looked back at the notes I took while reading, I was surprised at how many poems I marked as poems that I liked, considering my overall reaction. Poetry collections can be strange like this; a few poems can negatively change your whole view of the collection.

What I did not like: As I said above, the overly simplistic nature of some poems didn’t appeal to me. Their “messages” were too direct, sacrificing the quality of image, language, and musicality. One poem I particularly did not enjoy was “Peace Talks” (p. 85). I was left scratching my head and wondering how it is a poem. It is basically a list of the word “talk” over and over with two other words sprinkled in. To me, this seems like something only a well-known poet could get away with publishing. I also felt that “Tiny Journalist Blues” (p. 114) was not a strong or satisfying way to end the collection. I understand the collection’s aim to give voice to oppressed people, and while I think it does accomplish this goal, I was just disappointed in how some of these poems were crafted.

For those who want to learn more about Palestinian oppression and Janna Jihad Ayyad, this collection is one to pick up. I also think this book would lend itself well to a younger audience. Again, there were many individual poems I liked, but the collection as a whole just isn’t my favorite.

Located in Adult Nonfiction (811.54 NYE)

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