OCTOBER MOURNING: A SONG FOR MATTHEW SHEPARD (Candlewick Press) by Leslea Newman, is heartfelt, harrowing, shocking, stirring; one of the most powerful verse novels I have ever read.

Newman pens 68 poems dealing with the insanely tragic death of Matthew Shepard, a gay twenty-one year old, who was savagely beaten, tied down to a fence and left to die in Laramie, Wyoming, on October 6, 1998, by two young men.

This is a volume that must be bought for every high school in the country.  It is a book that cannot escape from my mind or heart.

The treatise is beyond brilliant.  We not only get a point of view of people involved in Shepard’s death, we get a glimpse of the most unusual subjects.

“Witness,” a haiku, packs more wallop in l7 syllables than anything I ever read or heard about this brutal, vicious crime:

watching in horror

wishing he could do something:

the man in the moon

We also get to feel thoughts about “The Fence” where the young victim was tied to, “The Truck” in which he was taken in, “The Doe” who came by and in part reflects:


I felt

the two fawns

in my belly

curl into a ball

as I snuggled

beside him

and struggled

to keep him


This slim volume is important, needed, a must read for all.

The book comes at a time when another important resource appears, BULLYING HURTS: TEACHING KINDNESS THROUGH READ ALOUDS AND GUIDED CONVERSATIONS, a professional book by Lester L. Laminack and Reba M. Wadsworth (Heinemann), another must-read.

Important books on an important subject that must be approached before there are more mournings.