Words With Wings by Nikki Grimes (Book Review)
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A NYC native, Nikki Grimes writes books for children and young adults. Her book, Words With Wings, jumped out at me from the library shelf and it is my introduction to her work. She has won several awards for writing (a Coretta Scott King Award, 2017 Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal, 2016 Virginia Hamilton Literary Award, and the 2006 NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children) and continues to inspire other writers we have fallen in love with (I'm looking at you Kwame Alexander).
Words With Wings is a collection of poems as told in a first-person story. It's a pretty cool concept where every page is a poem but progresses the story of Gabby the daydreamer. When she thinks of a word, it has the power to fill her mind with images of her past. According to all the adults in her life, she has trouble focusing. Her daydreaming doesn't get any better once her parents split and she has to adjust to life at a new school. All she has is her daydreaming but has that finally gotten in the way of navigating her reality?
First let me say this book moved me to tears. At a short 86 pages, I quickly finished it and then read it all over again. Gabby feels like she is doing something wrong because she can't focus. Then her teacher finds a way to incorporate that into his lessons, giving her the outlet she needs to do better in school and express herself in words, the things she loves.
The language feels simple but builds so much imagery. There are poems that progress the story and then ones that give you a clear picture of what Gabby sees. It's all stunning. Grimes packs so much into the poems but never feeling heavy. She places you right beside Gabby and together you feel her joyous thoughts. I too would sit and daydream with Gabby as she saw beautiful places in her mind.
The thing I loved the most was that this book was about a little daydreamer and not about race or history or social justice. Don't get me wrong, I love to talk about those things because they are important to talk about. But sometimes we need the stories that about about little girls overcoming their fears of being "othered" in ways that are not about their race or their gender. Sometimes little Black girls need to see themselves as little girls instead of agents of change. It can be a lot of pressure to always have to see yourself as strong or having to overcome systemic issues. Finding focus is hard enough.
I would highly recommend buying this book. Give it as gifts to little girls. It's geared to late elementary and early middle grades but is appropriate for any age. It has a happiness that will move your soul.
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About the Author
Black & Bookish is the brainchild of Antoinette Scully, educator and lover of all things bookish. She is on a quest to fill your bookshelves with beloved authors of the African Diaspora. When she's not hanging out on line, she's living it up as the mother of two rambunctious girls and wife of a local filmmaker.