by Nikki Grimes
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Text Difficulty:2 - 3
- Children's Choices Selection
International Reading Association & The Children's Book Council
About the Author-
Nikki Grimes is the recipient of the 2006 NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children. Her books include the New York Times best seller Barack Obama: Son of Promise, Child of Hope and the Dyamonde Daniel chapter-book series. She won the Coretta Scott King Award for Bronx Masquerade and earned a Coretta Scott King Author Honor four times—for Words with Wings, Jazmin's Notebook, Dark Sons, and The Road to Paris. She lives in Corona, California. nikkigrimes.com
Starred review from August 8, 2016
Writing in five-line tanka poems, Grimes (Words with Wings) weaves a heart-wrenching story about a boy who isn’t the jock his father dreamed he would be. Garvey loves books and, despite his father’s efforts, cannot get excited about sports. He eats to mask the pain of his father’s disappointment and is teased at school for his size. Help arrives in the form of friends Joe and Manny, an albino boy who embraces his difference, but when Garvey risks joining the school chorus and lets his voice soar, he learns to become proud of what he can do, instead of focusing on what he can’t. In simple, searing language, Grimes captures Garvey’s heartache at his father’s inability to accept him as he is, as well as the casual but wounding teasing Garvey endures at school (“The change bell always/ sinks fear into me like teeth./ Ugly name-calling leaves me with bloody bite marks:/ lard butt, fatso, Mister Tubbs”). Garvey’s journey to self-acceptance is deeply moving and will linger with readers long after they finish this brief, incisive verse novel. Ages 8–12.
- fishn16 - I wish i could read this book
Starred review from July 15, 2016
Written in poignantly poetic tanka verse, Grimes' newest follows a young black boy searching for his own unique voice, lost among his father's wishes and society's mischaracterizations. This compassionate, courageous, and hopeful novel explores the constraints placed on black male identity and the corresponding pains and struggles that follow when a young black boy must confront these realities both at home and in school. Garvey has a complicated yet caring relationship with his family: "Mom's got a talent / for origami, but she / can't fold me into / the jock Dad wants me to be." Garvey copes with his father's disappointment by binge eating and, more positively, escaping into science fiction. Readers see the deep, loving friendship Garvey shares with classmate Joe, the only one with whom he can share his secrets. Through his father's lament that Garvey isn't "normal" and other clues, Grimes leaves the possibility open for readers to see Garvey as a young gay boy, which reinforces the connection the novel establishes between him and Luther Vandross, who struggled with both body image and being closeted. Garvey eventually finds himself in the school chorus. "I feel unwritten / like that song says... / I can't wait to sing my song, / croon my own untold story." This graceful novel risks stretching beyond easy, reductive constructions of black male coming-of-age stories and delivers a sincere, authentic story of resilience and finding one's voice. (Verse novel. 8-13)
COPYRIGHT(2016) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Starred review from July 1, 2016
Gr 4-8-Grimes's latest is a sensitively written middle grade novel in verse that takes its syllable count from Japanese tanka. Garvey is an overweight boy who is teased at school and whose father constantly prods him to be more like his athletic older sister, Angie. But Garvey has a best friend (Joe), an open heart (which leads him to a new friend, Manny), and, as readers learn midway through the book, a talent for singing, which lands him a coveted solo in the school's chorus concert. Through that talent, Garvey finds a way to connect with his father and combat his bullies' rude remarks with a newfound strength of purpose. Those who thought Planet Middle School's Joylin was a remarkably lifelike portrait of an angsty yet kind adolescent will fall hard for Garvey, a tender, sincere boy who dislikes athletics. Grimes writes about adolescent friendships in a way that feels deeply human. VERDICT A short, sweet, satisfying novel in verse that educators and readers alike will love.-Abigail Garnett, Brooklyn Public Library
Copyright 2016 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.
PublisherBoyds Mills Press
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