Review: Words with Wings by Nikki Grimes

words with wings

Words with Wings by Nikki Grimes

Gabby has always been a daydreamer, but when her parents started fighting and then separated, she started retreating into her daydreams more and more.  Now Gabby lives with just her mother, who is not a daydreaming type at all.  So the two of them clash.  Gabby also gets in trouble at school due to her dreamy ways and not paying attention to what is happening in class.  But along the way, readers will see that Gabby is much more than a daydreamer, she is a poet.  Eventually, her mother will come to terms with her way of thinking and she will find that she has a teacher who not only supports Gabby’s daydreaming but makes it part of his curriculum. 

Grimes writes in short free verse, some of the poems only a handful of lines long.  Yet because these are poems written by a master poet, they each speak truth.  There are poems that talk about moving and autumn, others that celebrate family members, and at the heart of the book are the many poems that celebrate dreaming, lingering and Gabby herself.  Grimes was clearly the sort of child who also daydreamed, since she captures it so well. 

I deeply appreciate that this book does not “fix” Gabby’s daydreaming.  Instead it is the adults who adopt a new attitude towards her once they realize that she is thinking and processing and writing in her head.  Gabby is expected to change some of her behaviors in class and is supported in doing this by a very engaged and kind teacher who promises that she will have time to dream and to record those dreams she has.  Gabby is the sort of heroine that one loves immediately, and she is also one that readers will cheer to see succeeding on her own terms.

Beautiful and strong poems support a world where imagination and creativity is accepted and poets survive their childhood intact.  Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Fossil by Bill Thomson


Fossil by Bill Thomson

Thomson, author of Chalk, returns with a book that once again mixes fantasy with photorealistic art.  In this picture book, a boy is walking along the water with his dog.  He finds an interesting rock but then trips and the rock goes flying and breaks open revealing a fossil inside.  As he picks it up and discovers the fossilized fern inside the rock, ferns start to grow around him.  His dog digs up another rock and when the boy breaks that one open, a huge dragonfly comes to life.  The dragonfly lands on another rock and readers will see the claws on the fossil before the shadow appears.  With his dog in danger, the boy has to think fast about how to save him. 

Done in a wordless format, Thomson’s art is the real draw here.  His photorealism makes for images that are worth lingering over.  He also uses unique perspectives throughout the book, such as the image on the cover.  The books has the universal appeal of a sandy shore littered with large stones and drenching sunlight.  That same sunlight somehow becomes threatening once the dinosaur appears, almost spotlighting the danger and creating deep menacing shadows.

Vivid and beautiful, this book offers a dynamic take on fossils and prehistoric life.  Appropriate for ages 3-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

2014 Morris Award Finalists

YALSA has announced that five books have been selected as finalists for the 2014 William C. Morris Award which is given to a book for teens written by a debut author.  The winner will be announced on January 27th at the Youth Media Awards program at ALA Midwinter.

Here are the finalists:

Belle Epoque Charm & Strange Dr. Bird's Advice for Sad Poets

Belle Epoque by Elizabeth Ross

Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn

Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets by Evan Roskos

In the Shadow of Blackbirds Sex & Violence

In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters

Sex & Violence by Carrie Mesrobian