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One Last Word: Wisdom from the Harlem Renaissance Hardcover – January 3, 2017
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From School Library Journal
Gr 6 Up—In this innovative and powerful compendium, Grimes pairs original poems with classics from the Harlem Renaissance. In a brief historical note on the period, she acknowledges the significance of black artists giving voice to the experiences of black life and cites the continued relevance of the literature of the period in a society that, decades later, still struggles with racial identity and injustice. The author credits as inspiration the messages of hope, perseverance, survival, and positivity she finds in the work of poets like Countee Cullen, Georgia Douglas Johnson, and Langston Hughes, and she, too, explores these themes in her own poems. Furthermore, Grimes brilliantly uses the words of her literary predecessors to structure the book, employing the golden shovel, a form in which the words from selected lines or stanzas are borrowed, only to become the last words of each line in a new poem. The result is not only a beautiful homage to the Harlem Renaissance but also a moving reflection on the African American experience and the resilience of the human spirit: "The past is a ladder/that can help you/keep climbing." In addition, each pair of poems—each of Grimes's works follows the poem that inspired it—is accompanied by a full-color illustration by a prominent African American illustrator. Featured artists include Pat Cummings, E.B. Lewis, Christopher Myers, Brian Pinkney, and Javaka Steptoe, among others, and the back matter contains brief poet and illustrator biographies. VERDICT This unique and extraordinary volume is a first purchase for all middle school poetry collections.—Lauren Strohecker, McKinley Elementary School, Elkins Park, PA
"Timely and thought-provoking . . . Grimes' choice of form, the Golden Shovel poem, does the magic of weaving generations of black verbal artistry into a useful, thematic, golden thread. . . . This striking, passionate anthology reminds young readers and adult fans of poetry alike that while black life remains 'no crystal stair,' there remains reason to hope and a reserve of courage from which to draw." - starred review, Kirkus Reviews
"Through a chorus of contemporary voices--including proud parents, striving children, and weary but determined elders--Grimes powerfully transposes the original poems’ themes of racial bias, hidden inner selves, beauty, and pride into the here and now." - starred review, Publishers Weekly
"Innovative and powerful . . . a beautiful new homage to the Harlem Renaissance but also a moving reflection on the African American experience and the resilience of the human spirit." - starred review, School Library Journal
"Between the covers of this compact volume lies artistic, literary, sociocultural, and curricular gold . . . Mothers and elders exhort and reflect while young boys and girls plead and dream, reimagining the sorrows and dreams of the legendary wordsmiths into scenarios involving superheroes, bullies, peer pressure, poverty, and prom dates that young readers will relate to. This is simply essential for both personal and classroom collections." - starred review, BCCB
"The vibrancy of the Harlem Renaissance is illuminated in Grimes’s provocative poetry collection . . . This enterprising and unusual volume not only introduces the Harlem Renaissance to young readers but also presents the challenge of a new way to write and enjoy poetry." - The Horn Book Magazine
"By turns touching and laugh-out-loud funny." - starred review, School Library Journal on PLANET MIDDLE SCHOOL
"[Grimes's] accessible verse and clear themes of self-acceptance and open-mindedness ring true. A work that should help adolescent readers find the courage and humor to grow into the individuals they already are." - Kirkus Reviews on PLANET MIDDLE SCHOOL
"Captures universal moments of confusion, anger, guilt, and fun." - Booklist on PLANET MIDDLE SCHOOL
"Grimes explores the tension between individuality and gender-role conformity and takes on young adolescent concerns such as changing friendships, the shift in boy/girl relationships, and first crushes." - Horn Book Magazine on PLANET MIDDLE SCHOOL
"The vocabulary is rich, the characters well-drawn, and the scenes realistic. This is a serious but not too serious look at growing up from a master poet." - Library Media Connection on PLANET MIDDLE SCHOOL
"Readers will cringe, laugh, and most of all relate to [Joylin's] learning process as it is sensitively and sweetly depicted here. . . . Has broad appeal and solid curricular possibilities." - BCCB on PLANET MIDDLE SCHOOL
"Throughout the book are color illustrations by award winning illustrators, such as E.B. Lewis, Pat Cummings, and Christopher Myers, which complement the poetry." - School Library Connection
Top customer reviews
As I read these poems, I realized over and over again how very skilled Grimes is. It is most stunning when you remember the form she is using, because her poetry flows and dances as if entirely unrestricted. Still, the bold words tie the two poems together and one remembers the strict form she is using and the grace with which she handles it. Grimes speaks directly to children and teens of color in this book, making sure they see themselves and their experiences on the page. That they see the racism, the bullying and the dangers around them. She also makes sure though that they see a strong community, voices to raise in protest and the familial love around them.
The book is beautifully designed with each page washed with yellows and sometimes lined in blue. It is illustrated by some of the top African-American children’s book illustrators working today. It is a stunning collection of art, filled with emotion, pain and endurance.
Masterful, skilled and very timely, this book of poetry elevates us all and sings to the skies that African-American children are valuable and vital in this world. Appropriate for ages 10-13.
Your response poems are beautiful, powerful. Each draws cords tight between our past and today. I can bring One Last Word to my students. They will get it.
Nikki Grimes, your poems encourage people to put their energy into words. I wish more adults were doing this for young people. I’m so glad I can point to you, your body of work and especially One Last Word as a way into art. I’m glad for the conversations we readers can begin with…Jamar and Dina, Helena and Damian, Tanisha and Josh. They are in our families....and in your pages.
Thank you for a short and sweet description of the golden shovel form, the Harlem Renaissance, and the preface. Today, we get so little time to teach history that short descriptions are welcome diving boards. Even the index is a text structure I will use with my library students...it’s a detail important in my world.
Finally, I am in awe of the graphics in this book and the bios of each artist that include ways to see more, learn more. Pathways to further learning are a gift. And, I must add that the artistic notebook line graphics between poems are an invitation to write our own truths. Genius!
Nikki Grimes, One Last Word, is spectacular. I can only imagine the care put into creating this beauty. You have always set a high bar as a poet….but this book, One Last Word, is a masterpiece. I predict many awards.
I have not yet read all of this book yet, but look forward to doing so. Thank you, Nikki Grimes, for introducing me to Georgia Douglas Johnson, a poet I had never heard of before but whom I already love just from reading her poem "Hope."
BTW: I do not understand why Langston Hughes is so touted and well-known when many of these lesser-known Harlem Renaissance poets wrote far better poetry. Is it because white publishers saw his poetry as less threatening, such that he got publishing contracts when others did not? IDK, but there must be an explanation.
I'm not trying to disrespect Langston Hughes. But, honestly, everything I've ever read of his is trite, cliched, and not very deep. Yes he primarily wrote for children, and people think you have to 'dumb it down' when you write for children, but that's not true at all! And if Langston Hughes intentionally 'dumbed it down' because he thought that is what he needed to do to engage an audience of children, that's just sad and disappointing.
Don't hate me, I'm just being truthful. Georgia Douglas Johnson's "Hope" is far better than anything Langston Hughes every wrote, at any time.