Prompts and resources:
Nikki Grimes' is a prolific writer of novels, biographies, and poetry for children and young people. Her fiction titles feature feisty, resilient young characters like Dyamonde Daniel, Danitra Brown and Paris Richmond, who confront common childhood issues like new schools and new friends, and more difficult issues like homelessness and foster care. These stories hint at Grimes' own childhood experiences in foster care in New York City — something she herself has referred to as a "rough start" — but also emphasize the importance of friendships, family, and a positive outlook on life.
Prompt for Grades K-2 (Level I)
It's been cold and snowy here in Washington, DC, and we could use some jokes to makes us laugh. In the spirit of Nikki Grimes' Danitra Brown, Class Clown, we'd like you to make up an original joke, riddle, or short story and send it along. This is your chance to try some humor writing and make us giggle.
Prompt for Grades 3-5 (Level II)
What's strangest pet name you've ever heard of? How about a cat named Gorilla! In Gorilla Goes Walking, this crazy cat with no tail and her human friend Cecelia boss each other around, make messes, and comfort each other. Just like Nikki Grimes does in the book, we want you to use poetry to tell us about your pet or a pet you wish you could have. If you'd like, draw us a picture of your pet doing something especially crazy.
Prompt for Grades 6-8 (Level III)
In Grimes' The Road to Paris, Paris and her older brother go to live with foster families when their parents cannot take care of them. Away from her family and in a new school, Paris feels lonely and different. Can you remember a time when you were lonesome and sad? Using the form of a letter, write to a friend or relative and tell them about how you feel.
Prompt for Grades 9-12 (Level IV)
Nikki Grimes counts the author James Baldwin as one her favorite authors and one of the most important influences on her literary life. Baldwin wrote novels, essays, and poetry, often about race, politics, and the Civil Rights movement. Grimes credits him with encouraging her to write, and for a time, Baldwin was her mentor before he moved to France.
Think about your favorite authors. What is it about their writing that you like? Now, write a review for a book by your favorite author. Remember, we're asking for a book review, which is your opinion of the work, not a book report or factual summary of the content.
More about the Nikki Grimes
- Nikki Grimes' Official Website
- Video Interview with Nikki Grimes (Reading Rockets)
- Teachers' Guides and Discussion Questions for Nikki Grimes' books (Web English Teacher)
- Nikki Grimes' Facebook Fan page
More about riddles and jokes
- Sample Riddles
- Sample Knock Knock Jokes
- Teaching Metalinguistic Awareness and Reading Comprehension with Riddles (Reading Rockets)
More about poetry and poetic forms
- Compiling Poetry Collections and a Working Definition of Poetry (ReadWriteThink)
- Poetry Writing with U.S. Children's Poet Laureate Jack Prelutsky (Scholastic)
- Writing Poetry Like the Pros (EdSitement)
- Elements of Poetry (Dr. T)
More about letter writing
More about book reviews and literary criticism
More about James Baldwin
- American Writers of the 20th Century, includes classroom resources and video (C-Span)
- Nobody Knows My Name and The Fire Next Time (Random House)