Posts Tagged ‘Verse novel’

Ordinary hazards: A memoir

by Nikki Grimes

ISBN 9781629798813


I’ve long enjoyed the works of poet/writer Nikki Grimes, especially Bronx Masquerade so the minute I saw her memoir sitting on the local library shelf display of new books, I grabbed it, thrilled that it was a verse novel like many of her works and immediately issued it. Here I am a day later having already finished reading her powerful book.

Nikki’s memoir is raw, honest, but also uplifting. Nikki tells of being caught up in foster care system, her mother’s mental illness, separation from her sister Carol, and a father who was mostly absent. We feel her growing mistrust of her mother’s new husband. We share her fears and loneliness, and are angered by the abuse that is part of her life.

Nikki shares with us her discovery at six years old that she could write and the peace and courage writing gave her to cope in a world most of us will never know or understand. Writing became everything to her and her notebooks kept her secrets, hopes and dreams. Her faith too, kept her strong.

I so badly wanted to reach in to the young Nikki, wrap her in hugs, hold her tight and let her know how brave, strong and loved she is and tell her everything would be okay. I wanted to let her know that there is a place she will one day feel safe enough to call home. Despite the traumas in her life; and some of it quite harrowing, she comes out the other end strong and determined. Her writing may reflect the pain of her childhood but it also shows, strength, hope and joy. 

Loved it.


Brown girl dreaming

By Jacqueline Woodson

ISBN 9780399252518

While Brown girl dreaming is a memoir written in verse form it still has power to move. Visually, verse novels have their own beauty, in the way words sit on the page and the way words ebb and flow. Jacqueline Woodson does this with precision.

This is a moving account of the author’s early life with her brother Hope, sister Odella and later, younger brother Roman. We witness what it is like to be growing up black in the 1960’s in a world of change. For some it is a world where the past haunts, always in the background. For others it is a time where the rise of the Civil Rights movement is making change and bringing hope. And always just on the surface is Jacqueline’s desire to write. Learning wasn’t easy for her and I was very moved when I read the reasons why she used the name Jackie instead of Jacqueline. At the heart of this novel is family.

This is not just a personal memoir but a view of the social and political times in which so many people grew up and for that it is a must read.
I am including a couple of quotes which will remain with me. I am sure you will find your own which impact on you as you read this wonderful novel.

“How can I explain to anyone that
stories are air to me,
I breathe them in and let them out
over and over again.” pg 247

“How to listen #7
Even the silence
has a story to tell yoy.
Just listen. Listen.” pg 278

The book is beautifully produced with a standout cover with a brown silhouette of a young pig-tailed girl with book in hand.

Enjoy this clip of Jacqueline reading from her book.