Lives: Poems About Famous Americans

Title: Lives: Poems About Famous Americans
Selected by: Lee Bennett Hopkins

Illustrated by: Leslie Staub

Publisher: Harper Collins, 1999
ISBN: 0-06-027767-X
Rating: 2/5 stars

Awards: None

Although an intriguing concept, Hopkins falls short of accomplishing the task of melding history with poetry.  In this topical collection of poetry, Hopkins gathers fourteen poems written by various authors in order to depict a personal, emotional image of important American figures.  From the fear missing from Paul Revere’s midnight ride to the awe absent from Edison’s inventions, these poems do little to create an emotional connection between the reader and the verse.  And although the illustrations are substantial and colorful, the images lack a true authenticity.  Anne Sullivan Macy’s stoic face displays no notion of her compassion for Helen Keller.  The one saving grace for many of these poems included in this anthology is that the words create a beautiful rhythm and the poems are short enough to be read aloud. Yet even with a strong beat, the authors missed out on beautiful word pictures, not portraying the crack of Babe Ruth’s bat or the pride instilled by JFK.

Review Excerpt: There is a good balance of men and women represented as well as a variety of personalities from Eleanor Roosevelt and Rosa Parks to Neil Armstrong and Langston Hughes.” -School Library Journal

Connections: This collection of poetry would be a good starting place in a research project about famous Americans.  Although some connection can be bridged, this book only offers a beginning.  The short poems touch on many details of the lives of the famous Americans, giving students a topical research list for each historical figure.


Hopkins, Lee Bennett. 1999. Lives: Poems About Famous Americans. USA: Harper Collins.

1 June 1999. “Professional Review.” School Library Journal. Books in Print.


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