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A Wreath for Emmett Till

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  2,109 ratings  ·  318 reviews
In 1955, people all over the United States knew that Emmett Louis Till was a fourteen-year-old African American boy lynched for supposedly whistling at a white woman in Mississippi. The brutality of his murder, the open-casket funeral, and the acquittal of the men tried for the crime drew wide media attention.

Award-winning poet Marilyn Nelson reminds us of the boy whose
Hardcover, 48 pages
Published April 4th 2005 by HMH Books for Young Readers (first published January 1st 2005)
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Jul 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A Wreath For Emmett Till

Author: Marilyn Nelson, Illustrated by Philippe Lardy

Published By: Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston 2005

While you will find this book listed in genres as a children’s picture book I think it is most appropriate for high school.

Nelson has written an Italian sonnet for Emmett Till. I liked that Nelson explains what an Italian or Petrarchan sonnet is and how she came to write it, before she presents the sonnet. The title also refers that this is a wreath of sonnets which is
Connie G
Feb 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
"A Wreath for Emmett Till" is an illustrated book of poetry in remembrance of the death of Emmett Till in 1955. He was a fourteen-year-old African American boy visiting relatives in Mississippi. He was lynched for allegedly whistling at a white woman. His mother had an open casket funeral in Chicago so the country could see his mangled body. Although Emmett's uncle was an eye witness when his nephew was taken away from his house, the jury acquitted the men tried for the crime. The public's ...more
Erin Ramai
This book is recommended for grades 9 and up because the subject matter is very emotionally difficult. Nothing I say here will do justice to this book, except to say: you simply have to read it. If you don't know the story of Emmett Till, you may want to read about him first and read A Wreath for Emmett Till after because the poetry will have a more dramatic impact. This book received both a Coretta Scott King Author Honor Award and a Printz Honor Award for excellence in young adult literature, ...more
Crystal Bandel
A Wreath for Emmett Till by Marilyn Nelson, illustrated by Philippe Lardy, published 2005.

Nonfiction, poetry.

Picture book.

Grades 9-12.

Found via School Library Journal, reviewed by Cris Riedel.

Emmett Till was a boy who was brutally killed for supposedly whistling at a white woman in 1955; following his death, his mother held an open-casket funeral to show others the suffering her son had experienced, giving support to the growing Civil Rights movement. In A Wreath for Emmett Till, Nelson
I enjoyed the pictures and imagery that Nelson and Lardy put into writing this poem for Emmett Till. The visual pictures that Lardy painted worked nicely with the words that Nelson wrote to commemorate this fallen hero of African-American history. My only problem came from reading the poem in e-book form. Since I got this from the library for my Kindle, this was my only option and it posed a problem in terms of the pages getting jumbled and the pictures being scattered haphazardly nowhere near ...more
Mrs. Van
Jun 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Marrilyn Nelson's A Wreath for Emmett Till is a winner of a Coretta Scott King Honor Award as well as the Michael Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature. Philippe Lardy's illustrations add much to this text, however, I had to completely focus on the text the first two times I read it.

The text is written as a heroic crown of sonnets. Fortunately this form is thoroughly described by the author before the poem begins. Sonnets are rhyming poems of fourteen lines written in iambic
Laura Rumohr
A Wreath for Emmett Till is a picture book intended for older readers. This book contains 15 interlinked sonnets about Emmett Till and the painful subject of his lynching. Each sonnet in the book represents a different emotion or aspect of this difficult part of history. The author, Marilyn Nelson, uses a crown of sonnets to write her poems (the last line of one of the sonnets becomes the first line of the next, the final sonnet contains 1 line from each of the preceding 14 poems).

Prudence H
Oct 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
I read the historical fiction/poetry book A Wreath for Emmett Till by Marilyn Nelson. I think this book was really good but it is a bit more challenging of a reading level and it uses some larger vocabulary, for instance when it said "the blasphemies pronounced to justify profane, obscene theft of human lives". This book takes place in 1955 after the lynching of Emmett Till, and the main conflict is simply death. Everyone dies eventually, but for Emmett Till great injustice came along with his ...more
Linda Lipko
This Printz honor award and Coretta Scott King award winning book is a powerful poem telling the story of Emmett Till.

At times the message punches and then, the author uses flowers as a softer medium to tell the story of young Emmett Till who died at the age of 14 at the hands of bigoted white men.

A stutterer, Emmett's mother told him to whistle when he was stuttering or nervous. This whistle was perceived as a black man whistling at a white woman.

1955 was a time of severe racial tension. When
Sep 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry

A Wreath for Emmett Till is a picture book intended for older readers - students in middle school or high school. A Wreath for Emmett Till is made up of a collection of 15 sonnets. The author uses a form of repetition (each poem starts with the last line of the previous poem and the 15th poem is a list of all the last lines) that links these sonnets together into what is known as a heroic crown of sonnets.

This heroic crown of sonnets is Marilyn Nelson's tribute to a young boy named
Michelle Pegram
Feb 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
This moving work of 14 connected Petrarchan sonnets creates a picture of what has come to be seen as a national loss and shame - the death of 14 year old Emmett Till. Matched with the sometimes disturbing, sometimes beautiful illustrations of Philippe Lardy, Marilyn Nelson's poems take the reader on a journey of fear, grief, anger and shame that will not soon be forgotten.

As moving as the content of her sonnets is, their connected nature and the structure of the book is impressive. Each sonnet
Cara Byrne
Aug 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
"Mutilated boy martyr. If I could/Erase the memory of Emmett's victimhood, The memory of monsters..."

This is a poignant, emotionally-wrought, moving book commemorates and honors the life of Emmett Till, a fourteen-year-old boy who was beaten, shot and thrown in a river in 1955 by white men who believed that he had whistled at a white woman. Though it is a "picture book," Philippe Lardy's dark sketches are complimentary to Marilyn Nelson's haunting sonnets, but they do not attempt to tell a
Rachel Grover
Jun 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: libs-678, nonfiction
This book was absolutely incredible. I read this as one of my multi-cultural books and realized it was also a Printz award. Basically, the entire book is a series of poems (sonnets?) about what happened to Emmett Till in Mississippi. I appreciated that the content was raw and powerful; while thought-provoking, there wasn't anything graphic. My favorite part of this book was how the last line of the poem became the first line of the next poem, and then all the first lines of the poem were ...more
Apr 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: black history, hatred/racism/violence requests
Recommended to June by: Elissa
Shelves: poetry, ya
A tough book depicting the horror and racism of Emmett Till's death. For the difficulty of writing the book see the author's "How I came to write this book." For the importance of Emmett Till to the civil rights movement read "Who was Emmett Till?" The sonnet notes give explanations, and literary, song references. In the notes of Sonnet V it gives a graphic description of Emmett's body. An artist's note also gives insight into her imagery.

I agree with the book flaps description - "profound and
Feb 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant. A heroic crown of sonnets (which the author thankfully defines in the introduction) that is masterfully crafted. Lyrical and unforced, I am stunned at her ability to use this structured form to so seamlessly create a beautiful, emotional tribute to Emmett Till. I read it, and then read the author's notes on each one, and reread it. The art is perfect and matches the text flawlessly. The notes of the artist were also a wonderful addition. Skillful and profound.
May 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Kristen Sava

Nelson, M. (2005). A wreath for Emmett Till (P. Lardy, Illustrator). Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Genre: Poetry

Awards: Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature (honor); Coretta Scott King Award; School Library Journal Best book of the year 2005; ALA Best Books for Children; nominated for several state reading awards in 2006 and 2007

Format: Print (Hardback)

Selection Process: Bowker Books in Print, Follett, YALSA Teen Book Finder


A Wreath for Emmett Till is a
A Wreath For Emmett Till is written as a sonnet. Marilyn Nelson told this story in her own words "with my heart in my mouth and tears in my eyes. The poems tell the story of Emmett Till and his brutal murder in Mississippi. He was accused of whistling at a white woman, which in those days was a huge crime. Five men chased him, beat him, chained him and threw his body in the Tallahatchie River. For many years this case stood at the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement. His mother spent the rest ...more
Ch_beth Rice
Mar 14, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: poetry
A Wreath for Emmett Till by Marilyn Nelson takes readers into the emotions people felt when young Emmett Till was murder for supposedly whistling at a white woman in Mississippi in the 1950’s. Nelson writes the story as a heroic crown of sonnets, and she begins the book with a description of this form. Readers definitely need to bring background knowledge of the story of Emmett Till to this book as it does not clearly tell readers what happened. The author does include a summary of the events ...more
Mar 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A Wreath for Emmett Till is powerful series of poems about the death of Emmett Till. It follows the structure of a heroic crown of sonnets, "a sequence of fifteen interlinked sonnets, in which the last one is made up of the first lines of the preceding fourteen," as it states in the introduction to the book. The sonnets contain powerful diction and imagery emphasizing the tragedy and injustice of Emmett Till's death.

In addition to the historical context of the story, the sonnets provide a
Feb 07, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: awards-books
I was familiar with the terrible details of Emmett Till’s death and the effect this had on the Civil Rights movement. What I didn’t know was this challenging poem pattern that Nelson chose for her expression of the pain she felt for Emmett Till and his mother. The crown of sonnets that she links to share her emotions are very moving and sad. Nelson explained best when she said, “I wrote this poem with my heart in my mouth and tears in my eyes, breathless with anticipation and surprise.” Not only ...more
Dec 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: adolescent-lit

Honestly, I picked this one because it is short. However, I was really surprised at how powerful the feeling could be in a 20 page book! At a young age, the author was significantly affected by the story of the lynching of teenage Emmett Till and knew for a long time that he would write about it. He creates beautiful sonnets about this crushing blow to humanity. His form is wonderful and his images are powerful. I would love to have this read in a US History class during a unit
Mar 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Anne Zemba

A Wreath for Emmett Till is about the 1955 lynching of an African American boy who went to visit family in Mississippi. Emmett was accused of whistling at a white woman. This simple act cost him his life. Even thought this event took place nearly 60 years ago, young people today can still relate to bullying and hate crimes.

A Wreath for Emmett Till is written to be read in its entirety. It is made up of fourteen sonnets and the fifteenth sonnet is made up of the first lines of
I've been wanting to read this for awhile, and found it disappointing. I also picked up a copy of a cycle of poems about an author's cat and was much more moved by that book than this one. Given the topics, I realized that either there's something wrong with me, or with this book. In her foreward, Nelson writes "the strict form became a kind of insulation, a way of protecting myself from the intense pain of the subject matter." I think she overdid it, and replaced feeling with formality for the ...more
L11_Nick Mamula
Mar 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Powerful. Nelson does an amazing job of bringing to light one of the most horrific events in American history. Before reading the book I was apprehensive as to how well Nelson could encapsulate the emotion and moral injustice that the story provokes. However, the combination of illustrations and gripping poetry is proof that Nelson knew what he was doing.

This book can act as the perfect supplementary tool to a teacher trying to teach this event. Only because of the original story is so graphic,
Mar 08, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Bonnie by: Sprague Library
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 14, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
This is an outstanding book, especially in this form of Petrarchan sonnet poetry. I appreciated that the author explained this form at the very beginning of the book and that helped me to understand the form and appreciate the creative, thought-provoking text of the poems. The heroic form of the sonnets, with the final poem consisting of the first lines of the other fourteen poems completes the circular pattern to the sonnet collection. The form is reflective of the tribute to Emmett Till who ...more
Cathy Blackler
Jul 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Marilyn Nelson has packed a powerful tale in a tiny package. A Wreath for Emmett Till is a book of poetry about lynching. Nelson's attention to detail is apparent from the onset; detail not only about Emmett Till and his place in history, but literary detail as well. The book is written as a Heroic Crown of Sonnets-fascinating stuff, look it up. I've been challenged by a friend to use this book throughout an entire semester-I will definitely give it a go, as so many literary layers make it a ...more
Anna Smithberger
Jun 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
This was very good and very sad. I'd only encountered a crown of sonnets once before, so it was lovely to read a poem in this form, and it is so well done (at least imho as someone with very little interest or understanding of the art of poetry).
I must say, this is not what I was expecting upon learning this was a picture book. I knew the Emmett Till story before this title was assigned for my Social Justice class, but I hadn't thought the event would be explored in so poetic a manner. Very
Gemi Renske
Jun 25, 2013 rated it it was ok
For such a delicate and compelling topic, there was surprisingly little emotion in the writing. It felt too technical/clinical. The illustrations are good, and there are interesting tidbits of info in the story. I learn Emmett Till whistles because he stutters, etc. I'm just disappointed with the author's choice of diction.
Feb 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I wish this book wasn't in the juvenile section of the library thrust in with all the other picture books. This women wrote fifteen sonnets and was able to tie them up into a beautiful poetic wreath for the dedication of Emmett Till. I was touched by the artwork and the literacy, but I wish this book was placed in a spot where readers will understand and enjoy this beautiful tribute.
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Marilyn Nelson is the author of many acclaimed books for young people and adults, including CARVER: A LIFE IN POEMS, a Newbery Honor Book and Coretta Scott King Honor Book, and A WREATH FOR EMMETT TILL, a Printz Honor Book and Coretta Scott King Honor Book. She also translated THE LADDER, a picture book by Halfdan Rasmussen. She lives in East Haddam, Connecticut.

For more information, please see
“Emmett Till's name still catches in my throat,
like syllables waylaid in a stutterer's mouth.
A fourteen-year-old stutterer, in the South
to visit relatives and to be taught
the family's ways. His mother had finally bought
that White Sox cap; she'd made him swear an oath
to be careful around white folks. She'd told him the truth
of many a Mississippi anecdote:
Some white folks have blind souls. In his suitcase
she'd packed dungarees, T-shirts, underwear,
and comic books. She'd given him a note
for the conductor, waved to his chubby face,
wondered if he'd remember to brush his hair.
Her only child. A body left to bloat.”
More quotes…