VOYA - Nancy Thackaberry
Through twenty-eight slice-of-life poems, Grimes tells a semi-autobiographical coming-of-age story that comes alive with stunning black-and-white drawings by Angelo. Readers new to poetry will recognize a rhyme pattern in most of the poems, but will be pleasantly surprised at the unexpected themes found within. The poems describe the emotional highs and lows that a young girl, aged probably eleven to fifteen, experiences as her parents go through divorce.
The first set of poems portrays a contented child, but foreshadows the oncoming crisis. In "Handel," the young girl describes her father playing the violin: "he shatters heaven's crystal floor with melody"; the last line of "Hopscotch" is "I'll keep my dad, I think." Her feelings for her father then begin to contradict. In "Self," she claims to "want to be like my old man," yet in "Daddy's Promise" she wonders "if or when [he]'d learn to keep [his] promises." As the young girl's relationship with her father changes for the worse, her ties to her mother strengthen. In "Gin Rummy," she confesses "I'm honestly my happiest when Mother lets me win a hand or two of gin." This simple, yet thought-provoking poetry collection makes a wonderful high interest/low reading level choice.
VOYA Codes: 4Q 4P M J (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses, Broad general YA appeal, Middle School-defined as grades 6 to 8 and Junior High-defined as grades 7 to 9).
School Library Journal
Gr 5-9-Written in the first-person voice of an African-American girl, these 28 poems celebrate family, culture, writing, and the spirit of a creative, introspective child. They should be read in the order in which they are arranged to appreciate the power and overall loose plot. "Part I: Genius" introduces readers to the main character and her family. "Part II: The Secret" explores the private, painful stories of the family and ends with the parents' divorce. "Part III: A Dime a Dozen" explores identity and culture. Grimes's carefully crafted word placement matches the rhythms and messages of the poems. In "Stroll," words are offset from the left margin, symbolizing the protagonist's individual pace, which is unique and different from that of her mother. From protecting oneself from the risks of love in "Foster Home," to a daughter's yearning for her mother's pride in the title piece, emotion flows through these verses. The melodic rhythms gracefully sing when read aloud. Resembling photographs, the soft black-and-white illustrations portray the family members and offer images of the words without infringing on readers' imaginations or personal reactions to the poetry. Librarians and English teachers may consider planning a program to explore this book and Grimes's novel, Jazmin's Notebook (Dial, 1998) for similarities and differences. A quietly profound, heartfelt work.-Shawn Brommer, Southern Tier Library System, Painted Post, NY