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The Watcher Hardcover – Illustrated, October 9, 2017

4.5 out of 5 stars 18 ratings

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 3–5—Drawing from Psalm 121, Grimes weaves a dual narrative around two young classmates using the Golden Shovel format. (Each poem uses the words of one line of the original psalm as its ending words.) Jordan makes good choices despite a meek and downtrodden nature. Tanya acts like a bully, her hostility rooted in self-consciousness about stuttering and academic struggles. Both are encouraged by family members to turn to God, who is always watching over them. The message is heavy at times: "where/stutterers aren't treated like spit." But Grimes's skillful use of enjambment keeps the verse fresh. The text is also a valuable study in perspective, offering insight into the character's motivations and fears. Both gravitate to an aptly named new student, "Israel." Soon after, the speakers are brought together by Jordan's commitment to choose kindness and Tanya's willingness to change. Grimes ends with a brief explanation and encourages young readers to try their hands at this poetry form. Collier's mixed-media illustrations accompany the text, incorporating paintings and also photographs of real New York City students. VERDICT A strong portrayal of pious characteristics to foster empathy in kids; a fine addition to religious-themed poetry collections.—Maria O'Toole, Carroll Manor Elementary School, Adamstown, MD


Kirkus Reviews (STARRED review)
“Wilder Award–winning author Grimes delivers a compact yet powerful message of hope and encouragement based on Psalm 121. . . . A sumptuous work filled with a deliciously wrapped center—perfect for classrooms, school, public, or church libraries, or home: wherever hearts go for mending.”

Publishers Weekly (STARRED review)
“Drawing on Psalm 121 and a poetic technique called the Golden Shovel, Grimes creates a cycle of poems about two children, Jordan and Tanya, who become friends through their intense faith and the arrival of a new classmate. . . . The language, by turns soaring and searing, requires close attention, but its beauty is brought to earth in the best way by Collier’s resonant photo-collages.”

Booklist (STARRED review)
“In short bursts of poetry, readers meet Jordan, who fears his tormentor, and Tanya, the bully, whose stuttering isolates her. . . . Readers will be moved by Tanya’s fears and Jordan’s ability to reach out. Collier uses his look-and-look-again collage work, here in earth tones, to capture and extend the emotions bubbling near the surface. Childhood concerns, some common, some not, are elevated by the infusion of God into this wholly (and holy) original mix.”

Shelf Awareness (STARRED review)
"Hopeful and affecting, Grimes and Collier's third collaboration provides exquisite affirmation of the healing power of forgiveness and compassion."

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