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In Concrete Kids, playwright, musician, and educator Amyra León uses free verse to challenge us to dream beyond our circumstances -- and sometimes even despite them.

Pocket Change Collective is a series of small books with big ideas from today's leading activists and artists.

Concrete Kids is an exploration of love and loss, melody and bloodshed. Musician, playwright, and educator Amyra León takes us on a poetic journey through her childhood in Harlem, as she navigates the intricacies of foster care, mourning, self-love, and resilience. In her signature free-verse style, she invites us all to dream with abandon--and to recognize the privilege it is to dream at all.

96 pages, Paperback

First published October 13, 2020

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Amyra Leon

3 books14 followers

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5 stars
347 (52%)
4 stars
228 (34%)
3 stars
70 (10%)
2 stars
9 (1%)
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2 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 113 reviews
Profile Image for Bookishrealm.
1,909 reviews4,798 followers
September 9, 2020
Such a powerful book. I don't think that I was expecting to be so readily impacted by this book, but it happened. Penguin is definitely doing the damn thing with these pocket change books. I received this book as an ARC for review. All thoughts are my own

Concrete Kids is another book in Penguin Teens new pocket change series. I read one other this year titled Beyond the Gender Binary. I absolutely loved that one so when I was given the opportunity to check out another one in this series I jumped on it. Amyra Leon is truly a gift to this world. She's not only an author, but also a musician, playwright, and activist. Concrete Kids is a accumulation of poetry and prose as Leon describes to readers her experience growing up in Brooklyn, NY. Leon touches on everything from the treatment of Black bodies to her own experience growing up in foster care and having to learn to love herself when those adults responsible for her well being did not. I was mesmerized by her ability to take the simplest of poems and truly capture the full image of the Black experience. From gentrification to the battle with the Aids epidemic to the endless cycle of violence introduced to our children, she doesn't abstain from covering anything. There were multiple sections that I had to read over and over not only because I wanted to make sure I understood her true intentions and meanings, but also because the passages were so beautiful. There were references to songs like Lip Gloss by Lil Mama, Strange Fruit, and even Timbaland & Magoo. I appreciated all of those references because they, too, were important and pivotal during my childhood.

This book while short is such a powerful dedication to all kids with melanin. It's an encouragement to look beyond the here and now and find the power to dream big. I loved it. It's so understandable as to why some have difficult looking outside of the confines of their block. The issues and circumstances that a lot of these kids face never ceases to blow my mind. Some will see more tragedy in a day than some adults see in their lifetime. And Leon reminds readers of that. She doesn't hold back or gloss over those difficult topics.

If you haven't checked out any of the Penguin Pocket Change Collectives please give them a try. They are well worth a read. I haven't been disappointed yet and I truly believe that this is such a powerful addition to the collection.

Profile Image for Bruna Miranda.
Author 8 books768 followers
February 28, 2021
Eu amo tanto essa coleção <3 Esse eu não nem sabia o que esperar do tema, não conhecia quem escreve, e aí quando comecei a ler descobri que é escrito em verso (!!!), que a escrita é MUITO, MUITO BOA, e a autora é maravilhosa?!
Profile Image for Reading Relish.
370 reviews27 followers
April 6, 2022

*Trigger/content warnings in this book for blood, child abuse, death, gun violence, murder, and racism*

This was such a poignant and haunting and powerful little book! Leon gets very vulnerable during this when talking about family, the foster care system, and loss of loved ones, and I appreciated that. I hope Leon writes more books and poetry collections, because I could not get enough of the writing. I recommend this to everyone!
Profile Image for Debbie.
986 reviews17 followers
March 12, 2022
Concrete Kids is raw and real and feels deeply personal.
Quote:”I suppose that’s what mothers do, forgive on behalf of God, they are both capable of giving life.“
Profile Image for Justin.
85 reviews8 followers
February 13, 2023
For most of my life, I just didn’t think poetry was for me, until two discoveries in recent years - books in verse and audiobooks. The longer format of the former and the fact I’m being read to (rather than me guessing how it should be read) have opened my eyes to a whole new world! This is the sixth book I’ve read from the Pocket Change Collective - and I believe my third book in verse - and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Heartfelt, timely, motivating. Perfect for young progressives.
Profile Image for Sarkathun.
165 reviews1 follower
June 1, 2021
I really liked this book of poems, the words and imagery and space on the page. But can we just talk about the physical book for a moment? Way to go, Pocket Change Collective! This is a beautiful, small, perfect book that could easily travel everywhere with someone.
Profile Image for Jas.
438 reviews7 followers
June 20, 2021
I really like the pocket change collective series. This book is different from all the others I've read and it's beautiful. The themes are heavy and pieces break your heart, but the prose is beautiful. The writing is amazing. I highly recommend.
Profile Image for Dylan Miller.
228 reviews2 followers
June 11, 2020
I don't think I even have words, but hopefully these few will do: beautiful, haunting, uplifting. This poetry anthology does something many similar examples do not: leaves readers with a profound sense of hope.
Profile Image for Cait Hutsell.
301 reviews22 followers
July 5, 2020
Great addition for high school poetry shelves. I think teens will find the language accessible and interesting. Lovely glimpse into a life of hardship and hope
Profile Image for Christie.
143 reviews35 followers
November 27, 2020
Read it in one sitting and the author's style is absolutely resolute and resounding!
Amyra Leon's manner of delivering each societical and economic issues has been such read-worthy packed with joys of wisdom and profound pleasure!

Looking forward as to when they would open a COR💪
Profile Image for Lys.
805 reviews
January 25, 2021
Moving, beautiful, and timely. I love everything about this -- from the cover artwork, to the small size, to the accessible poetry. This is a great addition to all YA poetry collections.
Profile Image for Shawn.
97 reviews7 followers
March 1, 2023
A short but powerful collection of poems about childhood and adolescence in a foster family, and the deep emotional toll of racism and poverty. Recommended.
Profile Image for naima.
98 reviews
June 30, 2021
Her voice is absolutely beautiful 😍 this was an amazing way to try and get back into reading again. It was amazing to hear how authentic she was reading her words in her own voice and being able to hear how it should be read. Amazing.
December 16, 2020
Written in verse and a very quick read. This book tackled issues that Black Americans face everyday, our culture, and even our fears. I recommend this book for everyone.
Profile Image for Raven (the.readingraven).
104 reviews1 follower
February 25, 2023
This is an absolutely alluring poetry book! Amyra created this project with such love and emotion, I couldn't help but fall into tears while reading a few of these passages. You can feel the care she has for her adoptive mother and home, the raw emotion of what happens to the people in her community. It's such a journey for such a small book, I am so glad I read it. I am excited about Amyra's next projects, I will happily be there to read!
Profile Image for Kim.
1,382 reviews23 followers
June 25, 2020
Searing free verse and prose offer glimpses of the author’s growing up: being pulled from her single mother to enter the foster care system, being passed from home to home, being placed with the woman who would become “Mommy” just before her 8th birthday, growing up on the streets of Harlem (“There is no way to discuss Harlem’s wonder without its struggle and no way to mention its struggle without its celebration. Depending on the day, you could find Harlem somewhere between Eden and a war zone”).

León does not hold back on the “war zone” aspects, and the shootings and conversations about lynchings and “niggas” make this more appropriate for older teens and adults.

The digital arc was not formatted in a way that allowed me to see layout/ white space or illustrations, so I don’t feel that I can offer any kind of rating. This is the first Pocket Change Collective book I’ve read, so I don’t know how it compares to the other titles.

Thanks to NetGalley and Penguin for the electronic arc.
6 reviews
April 4, 2022
Concrete Kids by Amyra León is a poetry book written for young adult readers that centers around the experiences of the author. She writes about her experiences with her mother, growing up in the foster care system, her adopted mother, growing up mixed, and her experiences as a black woman. This collection of poems includes complex themes like loss, anger, depression, loneliness, love, and bloodshed. While some might think that these themes are inappropriate for students, some elementary students have also had to deal with things outside of their age. Having texts that students can relate to is very important when trying to increase excitement for reading and reading comprehension.

I believe that reading these poems to students would be extremely beneficial, both for students to gain a new perspective and for students to feel like they are not alone in their experiences. Reading these poems aloud would be advantageous for students to learn about rhyme schemes, how to pronounce certain words, and how to read with proper prosody. With that being said, I believe the teacher should pick which poems to read aloud and if students want to read more individually, they can. This is because some of these poems are more complex than others and students might have trouble comprehending the text. However, one way teachers can use this as an advantage is they can utilize these poems to expose students to unfamiliar vocabulary words. Teachers could also print out certain poems and have students practice their annotation skills and their ability to determine what the author is saying. Additionally, teachers could have students participate in discussions, either in a small group or a large group, after reading one of the poems. This way, students can discuss how they felt after reading the poem and questions or comments they had.

These poems are extremely well written and convey so much emotion about topics students might not hear about during school. This collection of poems gave me a better insight into aspects of other people's lives I have never experienced before. While some of these poems made me emotional, I believe that reading texts that make you uncomfortable and emotional is important for growth and understanding. I also believe it is important that students can see themselves in the stories or poems that they read.
Profile Image for Heather.
212 reviews22 followers
January 5, 2021
TW: Physical abuse, racism, use of the "N" word

Amyra shares an array of moments of her life, these moments important in understanding more about the lived experiences of Black women as they grow. This collection of poetry is so very important and is quite powerful.

For myself, I don't love poetry that repeats phrases numerous times and I even noticed some poems were repeated at different parts of the collection. It makes the reading process for me slower and I become less interested due to the style of writing. The collection as a whole is great, but as with all art everyone has different preferences and this style of poetry isn't my most favourite. This does not in anyway take away from the message of this collection, which has left me with a lot to think about and made me sad, frustrated and angry at the blatant racism someone so young had to experience.

4/5 stars - great, will recommend frequently
Profile Image for NCHS Library.
1,221 reviews19 followers
April 26, 2021
From Follett: Pocket Change Collective was born out of a need for space. Space to think. Space to connect. Space to be yourself. And this is your invitation to join us.

In Concrete Kids, playwright, musician, and educator Amyra Le n uses free verse to challenge us to dream beyond our circumstances -- and sometimes even despite them.

Pocket Change Collective is a series of small books with big ideas from today's leading activists and artists.

Concrete Kids is an exploration of love and loss, melody, and bloodshed. Musician, playwright, and educator Amyra Le n takes us on a poetic journey through her childhood in Harlem, as she navigates the intricacies of foster care, mourning, self-love, and resilience. In her signature free-verse style, she invites us all to dream with abandon--and to recognize the privilege it is to dream at all.
Profile Image for Alysa.
69 reviews
October 2, 2020
Thank you Penguin Teen and NetGalley for the eARC. Concrete Kids is a powerful collection of poetry and short prose describing pieces of the author’s life growing up in Harlem. The stories do not shy away from the harsh realities of her life, but are written in such a haunting, lyrical, and beautiful way that highlight the intricate nuances of the situations. The poems touched upon such a wide range and depth of feelings and emotions when exploring the scenes from Leon’s childhood. Concrete Kids tells stories of the Black experience growing up, and thus I highly recommend finding #ownvoices reviewers who can speak better to these aspects of the poetry and storytelling. This book was impossible to put down, a mesmerizing piece of the Pocket Change Collection series.
Profile Image for Magaly C..
265 reviews1 follower
October 23, 2020
E-ARC received through NetGalley.
Pocket Change Collective is doing great things with these easily accessible books!
This book written in free verse and mixed with prose, details the haunting reality of growing up in Harlem with the candid experiences of Amyra Leon: being placed into foster care, the reality of her mother's alcoholism, witnessing the death of a young man, gentrification, the gravity of the treatment of Black people in America, and the AIDs epidemic. Leon's voice is clear, rhythmic, and beautifully recounts her experiences in the foster care system and some of the hardships she faced, but also in the beauty of hope. This is definitely one I will be re-reading very shortly!
Profile Image for TinySalutations.
338 reviews4 followers
November 20, 2020
Wow. This is one of my favorite poetry books I’ve ever read. Unlike the other Pocket Change books, this is poetry. I didn’t know that going into it and may not have given it the chance it deserved if I did. The poems are personal and address topics like racism, poverty, foster care, police brutality, among other things. The poems about the experiences growing up in foster care were particularly good (especially about the adoptive mother in Harlem, those were my favorite). The poems are well crafted without being obtuse. These come from a vulnerable space and you can feel that in the poems. They are also a perspective I haven’t ever seen addressed in poetry, so I was glad to see a fresh point of view.
Profile Image for Stephanie Tournas.
2,081 reviews16 followers
January 23, 2021
This may be my favorite in the Pocket Change Collective series. Amyra León writes her young life in poetry, showing the reader her experience in foster care, poverty, her beloved Harlem neighborhood and life as a Boricua artist. With poems in different forms, from concrete to haiku to poetic prose, she reels us in and makes us want to know more, while we revel in the beautiful words. Her poems on witnessing the shooting of Black boys in her neighborhood were stunning. I was moved to explore more about her, and found that she is as talented a musician as she is a poet. This title, with a blurb from Rosario Dawson on the back cover, will appeal to young poets, especially those who crave more representation from people of color.
Profile Image for LeeAnn.
1,169 reviews2 followers
March 29, 2022
A lovely collection of poetry and essays that speak to the human condition and inspire the teenage heart!

Everyone has a story, and it's often full of darkness. Leon chooses to write her way out of the darkness, and share it with others who need to hear their own voices!

"When I started court-mandated therapy," Leon writes, "and everyone realized I had no intentions of speaking, they gave me a notebook and crayons. They told me to draw, I chose to write." (17)

Amyra Leon paints a picture of her Harlem: "Depending on the day, you could find Harlem somewhere between Eden and a war zone." (37) And her ultimately triumphant spirit: "It reminds me I am beautiful regardless of the wars I've known." (78)

This book is small but mighty! Highly recommend!
Displaying 1 - 30 of 113 reviews

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