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In this verse novel told in alternating voices set in 1980s Brooklyn, new student JJ Pankowski, an autistic punk rock lover, befriends Pie Velez, an Afro-Latinx math geek and graffiti artist.

Share this book

Talk with students about their familiarity with the various poetic forms the authors used to present their story. Focus in on the concrete poetry and ask students to identify those poems that use that form. Discuss how a concrete poem works and have students share what they think is the relationship between text structure, meaning, and author’s purpose for the concrete poems in Moonwalking. Given some of the interests of the characters, ask them to think about why concrete poems were a good choice for this book.

Have students create their own concrete poems. Encourage students to find inspiration from observations, topics, or themes related to Moonwalking. In creating their concrete poems, students should arrange the lines, words, or even letters of the poem in a format that evokes the tone of the poem or that mimics the action or subject. Let them play with their words and format then display finished poems.

Questions for Discussion or Reflective Writing

  1. What does it mean to be a friend? Do JJ and Pie have similar expectations about friendships? What can make it challenging to make new friends? What advice would you have given JJ or Pie about starting and keeping new friendships?
  2. How are JJ and Pie alike? What similarities help them to make a connection? How are they different? What realizations do they have as they recognize or learn more about those differences?
  3. How do the realities of family, prejudice, bullying, and systemic racism affect JJ and Pie? How do they affect their relationship? How does art affect their relationship?
  4. How familiar are you with events that took place in the early 1980s? Given the book is historical fiction, how did you decide what was true and what is fiction? Did you agree with the authors’ interpretation of history and how it affected and influenced their characters? What about this time period were you inspired to learn more about?

Related Resources

What Is Concrete Poetry? from Getty Research Institute
A Brief Guide to Concrete Poetry from
How to Write a Concrete Poem from Poetry4Kids

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