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Review of Garvey’s Choice

Garvey’s Choice
by Nikki Grimes
Intermediate, Middle School    WordSong/Boyds Mills    108 pp.
10/16    978-1-62979-740-3    $16.95
e-book ed.  978-1-62979-747-2    $7.99

In a little book of little poems, Grimes tells a big-hearted story of Garvey (named after Marcus Garvey), an overweight boy tormented by name-calling at school: “lard butt, fatso, Mister Tubs.” Of his size, he says, “My mom, dad, and sis / could fit inside my shadow / and — poof — disappear.” Garvey yearns for a better connection with his father, who wants him to play football and stop being so soft, but: “Mom’s got a talent / for origami, but she / can’t fold me into / the jock Dad wants me to be.” Employing the Japanese poetic form of tanka — five-line poems 
(or, here, stanzas) with haiku-like syllable counts — Grimes reveals Garvey’s thoughts, feelings, and observations, the spare poetry a good vehicle for a young man’s attempts to articulate the puzzle that is his life. Garvey’s life changes when his best friend suggests that he join the school chorus: “Your voice is choice. / You should let others hear it.” Not only does Garvey find his voice as part of the chorus, he finds new friends, pride in who he is, and the power to stand up to others who would tease him. He also forges a new relationship with his father, who does a quick turnaround at Garvey’s recital: “Dad stands to the side / beaming pride like a nova, / lighting up my year.” An author’s note explains the poetic form, which will be useful to classroom teachers.

From the September/October 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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About Dean Schneider

Dean Schneider teaches seventh and eighth grades at the Ensworth School in Nashville, Tennessee.

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