One Last Word by Nikki Grimes

One Last Word: Wisdom from the Harlem Renaissance by Nikki Grimes. January 3, 2017. Bloomsbury, 120 p. ISBN: 9781619635548.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.5.

In this collection of poetry, Nikki Grimes looks afresh at the poets of the Harlem Renaissance — including voices like Langston Hughes, Georgia Douglas Johnson, and many more writers of importance and resonance from this era — by combining their work with her own original poetry. Using “The Golden Shovel” poetic method, Grimes has written a collection of poetry that is as gorgeous as it is thought-provoking.

This special book also includes original artwork in full-color from some of today’s most exciting African American illustrators, who have created pieces of art based on Nikki’s original poems. Featuring art by: Cozbi Cabrera, R. Gregory Christie, Pat Cummings, Jan Spivey Gilchrist, Ebony Glenn, Nikki Grimes, E. B. Lewis, Frank Morrison, Christopher Myers, Brian Pinkney, Sean Qualls, James Ransome, Javaka Steptoe, Shadra Strickland, and Elizabeth Zunon.

A foreword, an introduction to the history of the Harlem Renaissance, author’s note, poet biographies, and index makes this not only a book to cherish, but a wonderful resource and reference as well.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Alcohol; Domestic Abuse; Racism

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews starred (October 15, 2016)
Timely and thought-provoking, Grimes’ collection transports young readers through the enduring expressiveness of the Harlem Renaissance, juxtaposing classic poems of the era with her own original work and full-color art by contemporary African-American illustrators. Grimes’ choice of form, the Golden Shovel poem, does the magic of weaving generations of black verbal artistry into a useful, thematic, golden thread. A challenge indeed, the structure demands taking either a short poem in its entirety or a line from that poem, known as a “striking line,” in order to serve as the foundation for a new poem in which each line ends with one word from the original. With this, the classic opening line of Jean Toomer’s “Storm Ending” (“Thunder blossoms gorgeously above our heads”) is reinvigorated within new verse as Grimes reminds young readers that “The truth is, every day we rise is like thunder— / a clap of surprise. Could be echoes of trouble, or blossoms / of blessing.” Grimes joins the work of historic black wordsmiths such as Georgia Douglas Johnson, Countee Cullen, Langston Hughes, plus the less-anthologized yet incredibly insightful Gwendolyn Bennett and Clara Ann Thompson, with her contemporary characters and thematic entanglements to bring forth a Harlem Renaissance that is as close to the present as the weight of injustice and unfulfilled promise that they spoke through. This striking, passionate anthology reminds young readers and adult fans of poetry alike that while black life remains “no crystal stair,” there remains reason to hope and a reserve of courage from which to draw. (historical note, author’s notes, biographies, sources, index) (Poetry. 10 & up)

Publishers Weekly (October 24, 2016)
“Can I really find/ fuel for the future/ in the past?” asks Grimes (Words with Wings) in the opening poem of this slim, rich volume. Her answer is a graceful and resounding yes. Using the Golden Shovel poetic form, which borrows words from another poem and uses them at the end of each line in a new piece, Grimes both includes and responds to works from poets of the Harlem Renaissance, including Gwendolyn Bennett, Countee Cullen, and Langston Hughes. Thus, a line from Georgia Douglas Johnson’s “Calling Dreams” (“The right to make my dreams come true”) provides “anchor words” (highlighted in bold) for Grimes’s “The Sculptor,” which emphasizes seizing what one desires (“Dreams do not come./ They are carved, muscled into something solid, something true”). Through a chorus of contemporary voices-including proud parents, striving children, and weary but determined elders-Grimes powerfully transposes the original poems’ themes of racial bias, hidden inner selves, beauty, and pride into the here and now. Interspersed artwork from African-American artists, including R. Gregory Christie, Brian Pinkney, and Elizabeth Zunon, and brief biographies of each poet flesh out a remarkable dialogue between past and present. Ages 10-14

About the Author

New York Times bestselling author Nikki Grimes is the recipient of the 2016 Virginia Hamilton Literary Award and the 2006 NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children. Her distinguished works include ALA Notable book What is Goodbye?, Coretta Scott King Award winner Bronx Masquerade, and Coretta Scott King Author Honor books Jazmin’s Notebook, Talkin’ About Bessie, Dark Sons, The Road to Paris, and Words with Wings. Creator of the popular Meet Danitra Brown, Ms. Grimes lives in Corona, California.

Her website is www.nikkigrimes.com.

Teacher Resources

Reading Guide

Around the Web

One Last Word on Amazon

One Last Word on JLG

One Last Word on Goodreads

 

 

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