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Jump Back, Paul: The Life and Poems of Paul Laurence Dunbar
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Jump Back, Paul: The Life and Poems of Paul Laurence Dunbar

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  101 ratings  ·  35 reviews
Discover the breadth and depth of Paul Laurence Dunbar’s poetry—and learn how it reflects his singular life as a late-nineteenth-century black man.

Did you know that Paul Laurence Dunbar originated such famous lines as "I know why the caged bird sings" and "We wear the mask that grins and lies"? From his childhood in poverty and his early promise as a poet to his immense fa
Hardcover, 128 pages
Published September 22nd 2015 by Candlewick Press
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3.98  · 
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 ·  101 ratings  ·  35 reviews

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Sep 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
It had me at hello.
"You never heard of the poet Paul Laurence Dunbar? Child, where've you been? I got to have a word with you. Why, back in the day, you'd have whole families sitting around listening while one of them performed "When Malindy Sings" or "Little Brown Baby" or "A Negro Love Song" (which folks most always call "Jump Back, Honey").

Within a page or two, I was just fascinated with the book, with the story, with the narrator, and just HAD to keep reading. I wasn't expecting to find a b
Stephanie Bange
Oct 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Paul Laurence Dunbar was one of this country's premiere poets during his life, though today he is often found as a footnote in poetic history. Sally Derby knocks it out of the ballpark on this biography about him, interweaving his poetry with the background influences occurring in his life as he was writing it. This is a fascinating way to learn about Paul the man and his poetry. Derby covers his warts and all, explaining why he behaved the way he did in a manner that brings understanding and em ...more
Oct 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This children’s introduction to the life and poetry of African-American author Paul Laurence Dunbar is told in a conversational, down-to-earth manner, which puts Mr Dunbar’s life and work into historical context. Both his parents were born into slavery, and his father escaped to Canada on the Underground Railroad and then returned to fight in the Union army. Mr Dunbar was born in Dayton, Ohio where he attended high school with Orville Wright, and his life and work were influenced by the racial p ...more
Edward Sullivan
An engaging, respectful portrait of Paul Laurence Dunbar through his poems and a folksy narrative voice.
Mar 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
If I were just rating this on my enjoyment of it, it would be four stars, and that would be pretty good.

I have to give it an extra star because I am so impressed with how the material was handled. In a comfortable, familiar voice, Derby weaves the story of Dunbar's life and poetic influences, introducing you to the poetry but in a context where they are more meaningful, and where there is more left to explore. It works well and is suitable for young readers even as it handles war, divorce, raci
Abby Johnson
So, I really knew absolutely nothing about Paul Laurence Dunbar coming in to this book and I was totally fascinated. Writing in a conversational tone, author Sally Derby brings Dunbar's brief, passionate life to the young reader, including many of his poems. While I enjoyed reading this book and it seems to be meticulously researched, I'm a little ambivalent about the conversational tone of the book. I like it because it feels like grandma is sitting down in the kitchen and telling you about thi ...more
The audio was AMAZING. The topic was fascinating. I listened to the author's note with rapt attention. What fell flat for me was the casual narrator of the text and the subtle ways the authenticity of tone and substance felt a little off. Dion Graham knocked the performances of Dunbar's poems out of the park - it was the "Grandma" voice that didn't sit well for me, especially as a biographical source. I felt like Derby could have focused more on Dunbar's dialect poetry, as that is what made him ...more
Mar 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Derby's biography of African-American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar, written for children, is a through introduction to his life and work, providing important historical context as well. I was a bit put off by the "grandmotherly" tone of the narrator at times (Derby says she heard a grandmother's voice and used it to jump-start her own writing), but the book mostly does not talk down it its young audience. The illustrations by Sean Qualls are simple and effective, tackling difficult subjects with cl ...more
Jun 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Neat little children's book that tells the story of the life of one of my favorite poets, Paul Laurence Dunbar. I am rather lukewarm to the author's use of an informal (grandmotherly) narrative voice to tell the story. I suppose such a device is more effective when the book is read aloud. The majority of the poems, though not all, shared in the book are of the informal dialectical sort, reflecting the speech he heard growing up. Personally, I am drawn more to his formal poems, where he articulat ...more
Jun 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: more-like-this
I had seen something on the Ohio History Connection site about Paul Dunbar and was curious to know more. I got online at my library and reserved this book not realizing it was a children's book. To tell the truth, I was a bit disappointed when I realized that. However, I was wrong to be disappointed. This is a very powerful telling of his story. It may be written for children, but it's also a very good read for adults.
The famous Paul Laurence Dunbar's poems are translated into a kid-friendly book to show the kids the wonderful poetry he wrote. it is accompanied by black and white illustrations. I give this book a 3 because of the great literature but hard to read structure.
Nov 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Good for discussion. Great voice, not ownvoices. Interesting subject, learned a lot. Easy to read, loved the poems selected to make author’s points.
Mary Lee
May 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Interesting to read (and read about) both the poems written in standard English and the poems written in dialect. Fascinating life of an Ohio poet!
Full review at:

I came into this book not knowing much about Paul Laurence Dunbar aside from knowing that the line “I know why the caged bird sings” was written by him which inspired Maya Angelou’s autobiography’s title; however, I didn’t know much else about his life or his poetry. Derby’s book does a fantastic job remedying that. Not only are you exposed to more than 20 of Dunbar’s poems, you are exposed to them in very specific ways as Derby tells Dunba
This bio about Paul Laurence Dunbar reads similarly to Rhythm Ride by Pinkney. The voice is animated and speaks to the reader. Poetry is woven throughout text to show the evolution of the writer as well as how events in his life inspired his work.

I learned a lot from this book and I liked the way it encouraged the reader to ask questions based on the info being presented and to just plain be curious about the world. I also appreciated that the text sometimes made guesses at things but backed it
Debbie Tanner
I really liked this biography Paul Laurence Dunbar, who I'd never heard of, but this is such a terrific book! It has a story told about Paul Dunbar's life, which is told in an amazing voice, and interspersed with the story are Paul's poems. The poems are a real study in what life was like back around the Civil War Reconstruction period. On one hand, there are poems with beautiful sentiments and gorgeous language and images and on the other hand, he wrote poems in an African American dialect that ...more
Jan 06, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography, nonfiction
The story of Dunbar's life told in first person by an unnamed "grandma-like" narrator who sounds African American. Adds "her" opinions ("I always laugh when I think about this" etc), makes it a laidback personal take on the poet. Book doesn't shy away from depicting the racial injustices he suffered and how he wrote his feelings into his poetry. Liberally quotes many of his poems to illustrate parts of his life story. Black and white paintings, those I wasn't so wild about. I think they would ha ...more
Nov 19, 2016 rated it liked it
I enjoyed reading about the life of Dunbar. This is a book geared towards elementary students but once again I think it may be best used in middle school. My favorite part about the book is the fact that some of the poems are written in Negro dialect. I enjoyed reading aloud the words from the past.
The one thing that tugged at me was how hard Dunbar worked to become a poet. He worked hard in high school. When he graduated though there were not many opportunities for a Black man to write and ear
Michelle Gray
Jan 14, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: kids-biography
I had a hard time with this one. I loved that the author included so much of Dunbar's poetry. I really enjoyed getting to read them because I was not familiar with his poetry before reading this book. Overall, though, I thought the author was trying to hard to make the narrator come off as folksy and it was distracting at times. It also made the narration feel disjointed. I would be interested to read more about Paul Laurence Dunbar, though.
Oct 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Reading Jump Back, Paul was like sitting around a rocking chair listening to Grandma or a teacher telling you a story. The narrative is done in such a way that it flows seamlessly into the poems and back again. The story of Paul Lauren Dunbar is told in an engaging way that is easy to understand.

I received a copy of this book for award consideration
Mar 04, 2016 rated it liked it
I enjoyed this biography of Dunbar. He is a poet I didn't know a lot about, and it was enjoyable to learn about his life. I did read many of the poems in here out loud, as it helped me understand them. My favorite was "A Negro Love Song" because it brought back memories of reciting that as a group with Ashley Bryan.
Alyssa Tabor
Nov 24, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow. Please go listen to this right now! I am not a person who enjoys nonfiction, but this was great. Bahni Turpin, of course, does a fantastic job and Dion Graham, who is an Audies Golden Voice, impressed me greatly as well. This is a biography that is meant to be listened to!
Sue Poduska
Sep 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
In this engaging biography, Sally Derby gets right to the heart of Paul Laurence Dunbar and his poetry. She chose to write directly to the reader and did an amazing job of drawing in that reader. The illustrations match the feel of the story perfectly.
I loved the writing style and illustrations but for some reason was finding this difficult to get through.
Lauren White
I received this book free through goodreads first reads giveaway
Mrs. P
Great for lessons on author's choice and voice!
Betsy Davis
Jun 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: waw2016
Interesting, knew nothing of this poet before. Dialect poems would be hard for some young readers
Dawn Moews
Jan 20, 2016 marked it as to-read
Shelves: n1
Nice blending of Dunbar's poetry with the narration of his lfe. Furthermore, poetry included is representative of all phases of his writing.
Sep 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned, kids-books
Very cute and informative biography/poetry book. Good way to get kids introduced to poetry.
Melissa Mcavoy
Wonderful, thorough examination of Paul Dunbar's life and poetry narrated in a colloquial voice. Some great poems, including the amazing "We wear the Mask."
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