Reading Rockets recommends the following books by Nikki Grimes.
A Pocketful of Poems
Robust, textured collages combine with upbeat poems about poetry, emotions, and everyday activities.
Almost Zero: A Dyamonde Daniel Book
The bright, lively, and one-of-a-kind girl is back, this time to find out the difference between wanting something and actually needing it. Dyamonde is caught by her own cleverness, sure to gain readers' empathy.
Chasing Freedom: The Life Journeys of Harriet Tubman and Susan B. Anthony, Inspired by Historical Facts
Underground Railroad “conductor” Harriet Tubman and Susan B. Anthony, a staunch proponent of women’s suffrage, lived during the same period in US history and actually met several times. Grimes richly imagines what they might have talked about at these meetings, contextualizing the period’s history and major events. Illustrations use strong lines and bold color to provide more than visual interest but also suggesting the strength of two remarkable women.
Danitra Brown Leaves Town
When Danitra leaves the city for a summer with her family in the country, she and best friend Zuri write to each other about their days. The free verse and softly hued, realistic illustrations convey the warmth of both summer and the girls' friendship.
Danitra Brown, Class Clown
Zuri and Danitra are best friends, but have very different responses to school from first day jitters all the way to the halfway mark of the school year. Poems combine with luminous watercolors to chronicle the girls' range of experiences and concerns.
Halfway to Perfect
Dyamonde Daniel is confident, perceptive and willing to figure out what is really bothering her friend Damaris. Lively language captures the angst and joys of 3rd grade, friendships, even and the feelings of a plausible character with juvenile diabetes.
It's Raining Laughter
Well composed photographs on pastel pages combine with playful poetry to celebrate everyday pleasures from playing games to enjoying music.
Make Way for Dyamonde Daniel
Self-confident, cheerful, and bright but friendless, Dyamond is the newest kid in Mrs. Cordell's 3rd grade. That is, until a grumpy boy named Free moves to town — and a friendship begins. Lively, believable, and likeable characters introduce this new heroine.
Meet Danitra Brown
In a series of poems, Zuri extols the virtues and shortcomings of her forever friend, Danitra Brown. Set in their urban neighborhood, handsome watercolors illustrate this fresh and often poignant camaraderie.
My Man Blue
Impressionistic paintings and gentle verse reveal a child's concern about the new man in his mother's life and the growing affection between them.
One Last Word
An introduction brings the Harlem Renaissance into focus, followed by a description of a particular form of poetry. Original “Golden Shovel” poetry by Grimes is interspersed with poetry by poets of the period including Langston Hughes, Jean Toomer, and Countee Cullen. Full-color art by a range of contemporary African American illustrators is interspersed in this small, handsome book. Additional information about the poets and artists concludes this unique collection.
Poems in the Attic
A girl discovers her family's history, sharing some of her mother's childhood experiences by reading what her mother wrote as a child. A series of short poems and handsome illustrations juxtapose past to present: "Memories can be like sandcastles/the waves wash away./My mama glued her memories with words so they would last forever." As the family history unfolds, the connection between generations becomes clear in this engaging and very timely book.
Rich: A Dyamonde Daniel Book
Dyamonde, a bright, articulate and confident 3rd grader, is entering the library's poetry contest to win the prize money. Then Dyamonde and her friend, Free, learn that their new friend, Damaris, who is also the best poet in their class, lives in a homeless shelter. The duo of friends turns into a trio — who take a different look at what wealth really means.
Shoes of all types are used to introduce children with varied aspirations and backgrounds. Slightly abstracted illustrations echo the warmth and joy of the varied collection of poetry.
Stepping Out with Grandma Mac
Grandma Mac is not like many other grandparents. And she's definitely not the stay-at-home kind. Told in verse, a girl relates how she and her independent Grandma Mac come to know and appreciate one another.
Talkin' About Bessie: The Story of Aviator Elizabeth Coleman
After aviator Elizabeth "Bessie" Coleman is lost in a plane crash, those who knew her celebrate her life. Different voices come alive in small portraits and beautifully crafted full-page scenes as individuals tell stories in free verse to present Bessie's unusual and heroic story. A biographical note extends the introduction to this early aviator.
Under the Christmas Tree
The joy of Christmas is told from a child's point of view in a series of poems, illustrated with warm and gentle illustrations. The universal pleasure in the season is set in the cozy warmth of a loving family.
A family expresses the universal joy in the arrival of a new baby. Luminous language and illustrations introduce baby to the many small pleasures all around us, from sand between toes to sticky peanut butter. Parents and grandparents can share this story with children to recall their arrival into the family.
What Is Goodbye?
Two sisters mourn the death of their older brother. This short novel is told in alternating voices of the girls, to reveal one family's process of grieving. Sensitive illustrations augment the gentle, questioning nature of the text.
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