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Editorial Reviews Review

Open Mike Friday is everyone's favorite day in Mr. Ward's English class. On Fridays, his 18 high-school students dare to relax long enough to let slip the poets, painters, readers, and dreamers that exist within each of them. Raul Ramirez, the self-described "next Diego Rivera," longs "to show the beauty of our people, that we are not all banditos like they show on TV, munching cuchfritos and sipping beer through chipped teeth." And while angry Tyrone Bittings finds dubious comfort in denying hope: "Life is cold. Future?...wish there was some future to talk about. I could use me some future," overweight Janelle Battle hopes to be seen for what she really is: "for I am coconut / and the heart of me / is sweeter / than you know" They are all here: the tall girl, the tough-talking rapper, the jock, the beauty queen, the teenage mom, the artist, and many more. While it may sound like another Breakfast Club rehash, Grimes uses both poetry and revealing first-person prose to give each character a distinct voice. By book's end, all the voices have blended seamlessly into a multicultural chorus laden with a message that is probably summed up best by pretty girl Tanisha Scott's comment, "I am not a skin color or a hank of wavy hair. I am a person, and if they don't get that, it's their problem, not mine." But no teen reader will have a problem with this lyrical mix of many-hued views. (Ages 12 and older) --Jennifer Hubert --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

When a high school teacher in the Bronx begins to host open-mike poetry in his classroom on Fridays, his students find a forum to express their identity issues and forge unexpected connections with one another. Grimes's (Jazmin's Notebook) creative, contemporary premise will hook teens, and the poems may even inspire readers to try a few of their own. The poetic forms range from lyrics penned by aspiring rapper Tyrone to the concrete poem of a budding Puerto Rican painter Raul (titled "Zorro" and formed as the letter "Z"). Ultimately, though, there may be too many characters for the audience to penetrate deeply. The students in Mr. Ward's English class experience everything from dyslexia and low self-esteem to teenage motherhood and physical abuse. The narrators trade off quickly, offering only a glimpse into their lives. Not even Tyrone, who breaks in after each student's poem to offer some commentary, comes fully to life. The students' poems, however, provide some lasting images (e.g., overweight Janelle, who is teased for her "thick casing," writes, "I am coconut,/ and the heart of me/ is sweeter/ than you know"). Any one of these students could likely dominate a novel of his or her own, they simply get too little time to hold the floor here. Ages 12-up.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Mass Market Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Speak (December 29, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0142501891
  • ISBN-13: 978-0142501894
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.5 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (133 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #27,799 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Nikki Grimes conveyed the fire-in-the-belly fervor of a Harlem girl who knows she was born to write in Jazmin's Notebook, a Coretta Scott King Honor Book. In My Man Blue, a Booklist Editor's Choice and Newsweek Children's Books of the Year selection, her artful words expressed a boy's journey from skepticism to trust. And now with Bronx Masquerade she presents a rich chorus of eighteen voices, singing openly about ideas, feelings, and questions--things that open minds, invite debate, provide release. A recent Booklist review proclaims: "As always, Grimes gives young people exactly what they're looking for--real characters who show them they are not alone."An accomplished poet, novelist, journalist, and educator, Ms. Grimes was born and raised in New York City and now lives in the Los Angeles area.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 23, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This is the first book of Nikki Grimes' that I have ever read and I loved it. "Bronx Masquerade" gives teens a whole new perspective on not only the importance and enjoyment of literature and poetry but also the identities of individuals in a multicultural society. The fact that this book is composed of kids' thoughts about themselves and others and the pomes they create in response to these thoughts really capture your attention. Each of the 18 students learns something about himself that changes his perspective about his future. A young black teenager who sees no future for himself in a community where guns and violence have taken over suddenly realizes he has a passion for words. A chubby teenage girl notices that her friends no long pay attention to the way she looks because they have become so immersed in her beautiful poetry. All of this comes from writing poems and reading them in front of the class on what their teacher calls Open Mike Friday. The poems these students "write" are so creative and really make this book quite unique. I could not put it down because I was so eager to read how these kids were going to write about their lives in their next poem. This book shows kids that they are allowed to different and they are allowed to be smart. It's ok to want to read and do well in school. I think that nay teen that is interested in poetry, or rap for that matter, even in the slightest should read this book. As a future teacher, I see books like these as leading our students in the right direction toward enlightenment. The only thing I think could have been added to this book would be the teacher's perspective on what is taking place in his classroom. I wonder what he would say? This book makes me want to write my own poems!! I am truly inspired.
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21 of 27 people found the following review helpful By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on January 30, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Nikki Grimes's, "Bronx Masquerade" won the 2002 Coretta Scott King Award without debate. It has inspired numerous poetry slams in high schools across the country. The book is beloved and honored everywhere. I'm saying all this because I have a shameful shameful secret. I didn't love this book like the rest of the world. It was well-written, for the most part, and dealt with issues that are very rarely touched on in ANY books today, let alone books for young adults. And yet I wasn't taken with it.
"Bronx Masquerade" follows the individual stories of the students of a poetry class taught in a New York public high school. Each kid in the class begins with his or her own preconceptions about their fellow students. During the course of the book/class, these preconceptions are pounded to dust as the kids write and recite poetry about their problems and dreams. Grimes is adept at making each individual in the class a different and distinct personality. In the end, no one dislikes anyone else and everyone has high hopes, or at least highER hopes, for their future.
The book is brave and endearing in what it wants to teach kids today. But there are some real problems with it that make me doubt its future staying power. To make this book realistic and applicable, Ms. Grimes has given the main character of the piece, Tyrone, some very slangy text. Tyrone refers to his "homies". He ends sentences with the phrase, "Word". Now, it's 2004 as I write this, and already I know that these terms are out of date. Any kid reading these phrases is going to doubt the legitimacy of the text. In five years, the book is going to seem dated. And in ten years it's possible the slang will obscure the message and render this book more of a historical piece than anything else. This is a real shame too.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on May 13, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The Bronx Masquerade is a book about 18 students who all face challenges. It tells the tale of a high school of mixed ethnicity and culture. In the beginning, most of the students were bitter and unkind to each other, until an angel of mercy came to their school, also known as Open Mike Fridays. Their teacher, Mr. Ward, began a unit on the Harlem Renaissance. In this unit, all of the students were to write an essay about this period of time. One of the kids were outraged at the mere suggestion. Instead he wrote a poem about the great Renaissance poet Langston Hughes, which was called "Long Live Langston". Mr. Ward allowed the author of the poem, Wesley "Bad Boy" Boon, to read it to the class. After he presented the poem, all the other kids jumped on the bandwagon and began to write poems of their own. Once the students began to hear each other's poems, they started better understanding each other and the problems everyone is faced with. As the book progressed, the poems became more complex and rich with meaning. All of the poems dealt with the inner struggles of the poet. Also, as the book progressed, the students became more tolerant of each other and each other's work. All of a sudden, the students' various talents became more apparent. Raul's paintings, Judianne's sewing, Devon's intelligence, and Raynard's music, are all examples of this. Most of the students' work was displayed on the walls of Mr. Ward's classroom. That way, all of the students could enjoy everyone's abilities. Having read this novel in school, it inspired us to be more tolerant of others. It has shown us that you shouldn't be ashamed of what you can do, just because other people think you should do something else. Overall, we give The Bronx Masquerade an eight out of ten stars. But don't let that discourage you from reading the book.
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