Checking the mailbox is always fun for a book reviewer. We never know what gems the publishers are going to send us. So going to the mail is like Christmas every day — lots of great packages to open. But every once in a while an author herself sends a very special gift. That is why I was so pleased to receive an advanced review copy of Words with Wings by Nikki Grimes.
This ultra-talented poet acts as an antidote to the decline of beautiful language in much of today’s media:
“The steady diet of crass language in lyrics, these days, saddens me. Where is the lilting line? Where is the poetry? What happened to that?” asks Grimes on a recent post on her Facebook page.
One answer lies in her book, soon to be released by Boyds Mills Press/Wordsong. This novel in verse about a girl who turns her daydreaming into a strength. is a striking mixture of experience, thought and feeling. The imagery in her work is brilliantly captured with spontaneous, concise, illuminating language. All the senses of the reader are stimulated, offering young readers an opportunity for profound understanding of each of the poems. The quality of the writing, combined Grimes’ masterful use of literary devices, creates an extremely enjoyable experience. This book would make a good gift for poetry writing tweens and young teens. But it can be excellent to share with all ages. I can see it being read and enjoyed again and again.
Who is Nikki Grimes?
“It seemed uncanny that words, spread across a page just so, had the power to transport me to another time or place. But they could. I spent many hours ensconced in the local library, reading—nay, devouring—book after book after book. Books were my soul’s delight. Even so, in one sense, the stories I read betrayed me. Too few gave me back my mirror image. Fewer still spoke to, or acknowledged, the existence of the problems I faced as a black foster child from a dysfunctional and badly broken home. I couldn’t articulate it then, but I sensed a need for validation, which the books I read did not supply. ‘When I grow up,’ I thought, ‘I’ll write books about children who look and feel like me.’”
Whether writing poetry or fiction, Grimes has succeeded in creating works featuring young African-American characters with whom children and young adults can identify. Drawing upon scenes from her own childhood in New York City, Grimes is noted for successfully conveying the black experience and universal themes such as friendship, tolerance, family, and community relationships, and children surviving adolescence. Despite a difficult childhood, her stories are characterized by optimism and warmth.
Nikki Grimes has written for very young children, middle readers, young adults, and adults. She is a versatile and insightful observer of human nature, writing prose that is precise, poetry that is lyrical. Her acclaimed body of work includes the poetry books Come Sunday, an ALA Notable Book, A Dime a Dozen, a Junior Library Guild selection, and the young adult novel, Jazmin’s Notebook, a Coretta Scott King Honor Book. Nikki Grimes currently lives in Los Angeles, California.