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A Fire in My Hands

3.72  ·  Rating Details ·  156 Ratings  ·  39 Reviews
Few writers capture the everyday moments of life like Gary Soto. In direct and vivid poems, he draws from his own youth in California's Central Valley to portray the joys and sorrows of young people. His writing focuses on Latino characters, yet speaks to readers of all ethnicities. Acclaimed by educators since its original publication in 1998, A Fire in My Hands has been ...more
Hardcover, Revised, Expanded, 96 pages
Published April 1st 2006 by HMH Books for Young Readers (first published January 1st 1990)
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Nov 12, 2007 Lisa rated it liked it
Recommends it for: poetry fans
Shelves: teenfiction
Soto's revised version of an earlier book of poetry, with added poems.

I am not sure if this is written for teens, adults or kids, but the teen poems are thoughtful and poignant. Soto writes with an honesty and clarity of remembering childhood that I wish I had. The heartbreak of stumbling through first love and the ackwardness of being a teenage reads very true.

His adult reflections to his childhood are not as powerful as the in-the-moment poems, but are still worth reading.
Feb 10, 2012 Katie rated it liked it
Shelves: eced-221, young-adult
A Fire in My Hands consists of the poetry of Gary Soto. The poems in the beginning are about Soto’s childhood, and they “age” throughout the book, ending with poems about his life as a father. Soto is Mexican, and some of the poems reflect on what his heritage means to him. Oranges also play a part in a number of the poems, and they inspired the title, because in the poem “Oranges” he states that an orange looked like a fire in his hands.

Soto’s poems did not rhyme, but they had a good rhythm and
Rebecca Moon
Sep 15, 2012 Rebecca Moon rated it it was amazing
1. Book Information:
Author: Gary Soto
Illustrator: n/a
Title: A Fire In My Hands
Publisher: Harcourt Children’s Books
Copyright date: 2006
Number of pages: 96
Grades: 6th – 9th
Where you identified the author: School Library Journal

2. Book Annotation: Gary Soto writes accessible poems that help children understand the intricacies of growing up in a Latino community.
3. Literary Category: Historical Fiction
4. Reading Notes: Gary Soto’s poems for children, much like his literature for adults, shed light
Julie Suzanne
Okay, so I take it back. I had claimed that Soto's works in my classroom anthologies were timeless but it was the fact that my favorite Soto poem has indeed temporarily expired that led me to search for new material in this book. Here's what happened:

I love the poem "Oranges" as a teaching tool in the classroom. The kids experience a narrative poem that inspires the appropriate discussion and interest, and it's easy to understand, similar in theme to a Soto short story ("Broken Chain") and overa
Sep 13, 2012 Miss rated it really liked it
Shelves: eng-420


This book is a book of poetry from experiences from his life. They include lessons on kids learning how to be bargainers early on to the warm fuzzy feelings boys get when they see a girl they like.

Personal Reaction:

I am not a fan of reading poetry, so I really didnt get into the book all that much. However I did like on of the poems, "How Things Work" that talked about social issues, which is something that I enjoy reading about.

Critical Insight:

I think the book of poems d
Sep 15, 2016 Angel rated it liked it
Shelves: ya, 2016
I don't have a poetry shelf. Obviously, I need to create one.
Adam Zaobiedny
Nov 26, 2010 Adam Zaobiedny rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, young-adult
Title: A Fire in My Hands
Author: Gary Soto
Illustrator: none
Publisher: Harcourt Children’s Books
Year Originally Published: 1990
Appropriate Grade Level / Reading Level: 6th - 9th

Gary Soto writes from his heart and also speaks through his poetic words. In the book, A Fire in my Hands, Soto carefully looks at several topics. A prominent feature in his poems is about relationships between young men and women. He writes these poems from the perspective of a young Hispanic male, still finding himself
Jaci Millette
Aug 28, 2016 Jaci Millette rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
As a reader who is seldom interested in narrative poetry, I felt that Gary Soto's poems shine because they are authentic and accentuate the beauty in the everyday, and serve as glittering examples of poetry that appeals to adolescents (but can still be appreciated by an older audience). However, the anecdotes preceding the poems, as short as they were, were too telling of the poems and, I think, severed rather than framed or formed the chance a reader had at developing a personal relationship ...more
Liz Strode
Dec 07, 2011 Liz Strode rated it really liked it
The poems in this collection resonate with young adults from any culture. Gary talks of love, friendship, keeping secrets, making mistakes, and other common themes in young adult life. I especially love the poem "Orange." There is an easiness to Soto's style that invites young readers into the poems and allows them to visualize and interpret without being intimidated.

These poems could be read aloud to students or paired with other poems or texts in a genre or thematic unit. I might also pair th
Christina Rau
Aug 28, 2015 Christina Rau rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
I liked a lot of these poems. I was irked by the little anecdotes that appear before each. The poetry would be so much more powerful if the anecdotes were either after the poems or maybe not there at all. Perhaps he can make a version that has tabs that hide the anecdotes for those of us who can't help but read them when they're right in front of us even when we'd rather not.

It also has pictures. I'm very much aware, as you may be by now, that this collection is aimed at younger people. I did en
Jeffrey Sosa
Oct 19, 2011 Jeffrey Sosa rated it it was amazing
Shelves: english-420
I quite enjoyed this small book of poetry. I especially liked how honest the author is about his poetry and you can tell it comes from a very unique perspective on life. Admittedly, some poems are stronger than others but the book as a whole is very well done and each poem complements its counterparts in one way or another. I also like Gary Soto’s approach to his poetry writing and how he explains at the beginning of every poem its origins or inspirational source. I would definitely recommend ...more
Oct 17, 2011 Alyssa rated it really liked it
Shelves: english-420
A Fire in My Hands is a short book of poetry for young adults. I really enjoyed the poetry in the book because it focused on everyday parts of life. It didn't incorporate a lot of highfalutin language, but incorporated beautiful diction to illuminate ordinary things. By far my favorite poem was "Oranges" which effectively describes an orange as well as young relationships. I also liked the theme of oranges throughout the work because it made me more fully understand an orange. I think the book ...more
Dec 30, 2015 Joe rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
I'm not a teacher or a student, just an old white guy who enjoys contemporary poetry. And I enjoyed this book. It's not only for kids. Gary Soto is an adult writer who happens to write in an accessible style. My favorite is "Morning on this Street" about a homeless man who pulls his crippled wife around on a cart covered by a cardboard box in the rain. It's a poem about love, and man-oh-man does it move me. It starts with two boys on bunk beds, one talking of the girl "he'd jump from a tree to ...more
Oct 08, 2007 Deana rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kids-poetry
A Fire in my Hands” is a rare gem, a book of poetry for teenage readers. Soto’s genius is his ability to take childhood and distill beautiful poetry from shared experiences. In the introduction Soto offers young writers a window into his life as a student and young poet. Short statements accompany each of the poems, conspiring to include the readers in the motivations and emotions that infuse Soto’s verse. While teens will easily relate to these poems parents will appreciate their literary ...more
LFPL Teen Services
Nov 12, 2007 LFPL Teen Services rated it liked it
Shelves: coming-of-age, poetry
Soto's revised version of an earlier book of poetry, with added poems.

I am not sure if this is written for teens, adults or kids, but the teen poems are thoughtful and poignant. Soto writes with an honesty and clarity of remembering childhood that I wish I had. The heartbreak of stumbling through first love and the ackwardness of being a teenage reads very true.

His adult reflections to his childhood are not as powerful as the in-the-moment poems, but are still worth reading. ~Lisa S. grades 6th
Aug 10, 2016 Rob rated it it was ok
Roses are red violets are blue, some poems rhyme, this one doesn't. I'm probably being entirely unsophisticated because I haven't read more poetry to the point that abstract poetry reveals it's amazing art and secrets to my immature pallet, but please give me credit for at least reading it, I just did not enjoy the experience. I will not blame the author, I feel much the same about abstract art, I would rather own a cheap Norman Rockwell, as compared to an expensive Picasso.
Jan 18, 2016 SouthWestZippy rated it it was amazing
Great collection of poems. Well written. Gary Soto uses his youth in California's Central Valley for inspiration. I also like the bubble at the top of the page explaining why, where and how the poem came to be. Back of the book has pages dedicated to asking him questions and him answering them, nice touch. I truly enjoyed this book.
Jul 03, 2012 Nadia rated it liked it
Shelves: 7th-grade
I felt that it was good but it wasn't great, it was average. The thing was that it didn't really go in chronological order and kinda seemed choppy. The bubbles didn't really make sense. But, the poems themselves were pretty good. Each poem was quite fantastic and relatable actually. It just wasn't quite what I was expecting
Carrie Shaurette
May 09, 2012 Carrie Shaurette rated it really liked it
Shelves: middle-grade
Soto includes many topics that kids can relate to like getting in trouble with your parents, having a crush on a girl, and playing baseball. Short blurbs about each poem will entice even the most reluctant poetry readers.
Dec 05, 2014 Robert... rated it really liked it
This story was astounding. Although it did not sound like real poetry, it was a book beyond it. It records the life of Gary's most favored moments as a child and adult. It fascinated me on how his life was in a place I've never been before.
Jul 12, 2016 Jacqueline rated it it was amazing
Poems of growing up with strong emotion and imagery. The introduction of how Gary Soto began writing poetry and the interview in the back, sharing his thoughts on poetry are terrific. This is a book to share in the middle school classroom.
Mar 26, 2016 Joe rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ya, coming-of-age, poetry
In the forward, Gary Soto mentions how he was surprised that poetry does not have rhyme or be rigid, and I think that is why a lot of people do not like poetry. I remember reading his poem Oranges before and I really love the imagery he uses in all of his poems.
Krista Stevens
Apr 07, 2013 Krista Stevens rated it it was ok
Shelves: young-adult, poetry, boys
Thought this might be a nice companion to the Grade 7 short story unit by Soto, but it is written for an older audience -the poems are inspired by Soto's growing up in California. I liked a couple - and there is a great "chat" with him in the back. Would be great for a Creative Writing class.
Martha Grace
Jun 03, 2014 Martha Grace rated it really liked it
I sped through th last of the book because it is due at the library. I t really needs to be savored, so I'll want to read it again.
Stephanie Rivera
Aug 16, 2016 Stephanie Rivera rated it liked it
There is almost a cozy and familiar feeling about these poems. I could almost remember my childhood as if it had been written on the page.
It's basically a couple of life moments made into Poems. Actually this is what poems all about. Not an interesting book.
Sep 26, 2014 Eliseo rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Soto writes with dense clarity of the everyday in Fresno, California. Worth the read for rising poets. Personal favorite poems: Oranges, Kearny Park, Inheritance, and How I Learned to Fly.
Ms. Arca
Oct 19, 2015 Ms. Arca rated it really liked it
I love his descriptions! They make me hungry, think of home, and I can really picture myself in his life.

I love using these poems as mentor texts.

Mrs. Jacobs
Mrs. Jacobs rated it it was ok
Sep 09, 2010
Richard Edwards
Richard Edwards rated it it was amazing
Mar 06, 2016
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Gary Soto, born April 12, 1952, was raised in Fresno, California. He is the author of eleven poetry collections for adults, most notably New and Selected Poems, a 1995 finalist for both the Los Angeles Times Book Award and the National Book Award. His poems have appeared in many literary magazines, including Ploughshares, Michigan Quarterly, Poetry International, and Poetry, which

has honored him w
More about Gary Soto...

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