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Dark Sons Paperback – August 29, 2010
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From School Library Journal
Grade 6 Up–In free-verse narratives, one biblical and one modern, teenagers Ishmael and Sam introduce themselves and relate their parallel problems with their fathers. Abraham is exiling Ishmael, son of his Second Wife, now that elderly Sarah has finally had a son. Sam's dad has left Sam's mother for a younger white woman. In Book One, Ishmael's poems express his pain, confusion, and love: Half Chaldean./Half Egyptian./Half slave./Half free./Half loved./Half hated./Half blessed./All me. His story is set against the background of nomadic desert life, always in the context of God's relations with, and plans for, him. Book Two gives present-day Brooklynite Sam his say: black man breaks/black woman's heart/to marry white witch. He's angry at his father, baffled by his mother, and resistant to his stepmother's friendly overtures. Luckily he has friends and faith; prayer and a kiss from a potential girlfriend provide some peace. The biggest obstacle turns out to be the biggest help: his dad's new son worms his way into his half-brother's heart. Books Three and Four continue the first-person accounts: Abraham's second son is clearly his favorite, and Sarah (a witch here) withdraws her love from Ishmael. Anger and jealousy threaten Ishmael's relations with his father and with God. Sam's father leaves him disillusioned and betrayed. The cross-play is effective, though Sam's story is more vivid and engaging. References to God (not Jesus) layer another father into the mix. Religion is a key part of the healing, but even faith-challenged readers can admire and learn from these stories of struggle in vernacular verse.–Patricia D. Lothrop, St. George's School, Newport, RI
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
*Starred Review* Gr. 5-8. "Why does he have to run off? / To start some new family? / With her?" Teen-age Sam can barely contain his fury and hurt when his father gets married again, this time to a young white woman, who gives Sam a new baby brother. In a parallel, first-person narrative that draws on Genesis, young Ishmael and his mother, Hagar, rejected by Abraham, wander in the desert, after Sarah bears Abraham's child. Grimes' clear, free verse speaks with immediacy and lyricism about both boys' feelings of betrayal and loss. The real focus, though, is on Sam, who complains to his high-school friends ("It's my stepmom, man. / My dad wants me / to give her a chance / But I can't") and talks to and screams at God--until he's able to ask God to help him let his anger go. The simple words eloquently reveal what it's like to miss someone ("I've stopped expecting / his shadow in the hallway / his frame in the doorway"), but even more moving is the struggle to forgive and the affection each boy feels for the baby that displaces him. The elemental connections and the hope ("You made it / in the end / and so will I") will speak to a wide audience. Hazel Rochman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
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I have to admit, this one was a bit more sad for me than the last one. I couldn’t help but think of all the Sams I know (or have known) who are dealt hard blows and, while it’s a hard road, come out stronger for it. I thought Grimes did an excellent job with the emotions of each character in the short journal like entries.
I liked that it was from a viewpoint of Ishmael. I often find it easy to forget that these big names of the Bible were people just like me. With hurts, longings and desires. I thought Grimes did an excellent job exploring what it would have been like for Abraham’s son.
This is my second book from Nikki Grimes and I look forward to more! Who have you recently read multiple books of?
(Thank you to BlinkYA for a copy of the book. All views expressed are my own.)
A guy whose father ripped his heart out too.
You and me, Ishmael, we’re brothers, two dark sons.
Destroyed, lost, and isolated, the perspectives of two teenage boys—modern-day Sam, and biblical Ishmael—unite over millennia to illustrate the power of forgiveness.
First, I would like to say I love how the author split the book between modern day Sam and Bible times-Ishmael. I'm not a fan of the lay out but overall the writing was good. She did a fantastic job!
This is a story between two world that are remarkable different but have big similarities. Ishmael felt rejected by everyone, I am sure---even God. Sam and Ishmael both had a lot of adversities to overcome and a lot of racial and ethnic divides that forced them into a corner that many minorities have to battle every day.
The author was able to correlate between the two and provide a path to forgiveness. Forgiveness that was very much needed on both ends of the spectrum.
**Disclosure** This book was sent to me free of charge for my honest review from the author. All opinions are my own.
I’ll be honest and say I did not know what I was getting myself into when I picked up Dark Sons. I knew I had read things by Nikki Grimes before (and am embarrassed to say I could not remember what those things were) and that it looked like kind of interesting. I was pleasantly surprised both by the format and content of the book.
One thing to know (and again something I should have but didn’t know before I read the book) is that it is a collection of poems that tell the story of two sons dealing with a changing relationship with their father. The first is Ishmael and his relationship with his father Abraham (from Old Testament fame) and the second is a more modern distancing about a teenager named Sam. Through the course of the book the similarities and differences of these two interpretations are brought to the forefront through alternating sections of poetic cycles.
As someone who grew up in a fairly religious household (and as a result when I stopped being particularly interested in faith for religious reasons and more for academic ones), I really enjoyed the Ishmael side of the book. He has always been a fascinating character to me and the role he plays is one that I feel like is ripe for a lot of different interpretations. I felt like this interpretation of what his emotions and feelings must have been were incredibly well done and were interesting when compared to the Christian response in terms of how Sam was able to deal with his father’s new family in the modern part of the book. It set up an interesting parallel of having God take care of these people while still not making a great life for them or seeming to always have their best interest at heart.
I thought the portrayal of Sam was also incredibly well done. It felt incredibly real and is one of the few reasons I would potentially recommend this book to a student. The way that the character processes emotions and was able to separate his feelings for his father and his new wife from those for his step-brother was quite interesting and something I feel like most people have had to do even if not with this particular situation.
I do not think I would ever assign this book primarily because I think that religion is a bit too explicitly central. That said, I have several students that I am already thinking of who could relate and benefit immensely from this. I also think that there are students like me who might see the comparison of Ishmael as almost a “patron saint” of someone abandoned by their father to be compelling even without the religious overtones it produces. Overall, it was a good, quick read and the format was something different that I found quite refreshing (although, this should not be super surprising coming from me since my favorite format for books are short story cycles).
Most recent customer reviews
Author: Nikki Grimes
Rating: 3 Out of 5 Stars
I would like to thank the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with this galley.Read more