Happy February! It’s Black History Month, an important time for learning and reflection, especially within the book community. This month we honor those from the past who worked tirelessly to fight against prejudice and discrimination, as well as celebrate the contributions of African-American authors and illustrators to literature as a whole.
Both in honor of Black History Month and the recent ALA awards, our blog post this week is a spotlight of author Nikki Grimes, who was recently awarded the 2017 Laura Ingalls Wilder Award!
This award is given each year to an author whose books “have made a substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children.” Largely middle-grade reads (and frequently written in verse), Grimes’s books feature characters of color from the past (like Bessie Coleman) and present (like Dyamonde Daniel). Her latest book, One Last Word, is a collection of poetry that pays tribute to the poets of the Harlem Renaissance, and it’s illustrated by some of the most talented African-American artists of the day: Javaka Steptoe (who coincidentally just won the Caldecott Medal), Brian Pinkney, E.B. Lewis, Jan Spivey Gilchrist, and even Grimes herself. Her work is both dynamic and profound, and even though these books are “children’s books,” adults as well as kids can find much to appreciate in the stories and the characters.
Below we’ve listed some of our favorite books by Nikki Grimes, although it is by no means an exhaustive list. If you haven’t read her books, there’s no better time to start!
Combining her own original poetry with the work of Langston Hughes, Georgia Douglas Johnson, and many others, Grimes provides a fresh look at the voices of the Harlem Renaissance in this new collection.
Garvey’s father has always wanted his son to be athletic, but Garvey is interested in anything but sports. When his friend encourages him to join the school chorus, Garvey finds a way to accept himself—but will his father see it the same way?
The first book in a series about the incomparable Dyamonde Daniel, who takes her new neighborhood (and her new school) by storm. The only one she can’t win over is the other new kid in her class—why is he so grumpy all the time?
Elizabeth “Bessie” Coleman was always being told what she could and couldn’t do, but that didn’t stop her from becoming the first African-American female pilot. This story of determination and perseverance is wonderfully illustrated by E.B. Lewis.
Gabby’s world is filled with daydreams, which are mainly just a way to escape from her parents’ arguments. But with the help of a new teacher, Gabby “the dreamer” might just become Gabby “the writer” in this Coretta Scott King Honor book.
Winner of the Coretta Scott King Award, this novel uses the structure of a poetry slam to tell a powerful story that is equal parts an exploration of self, an homage to spoken-word poetry, and an intriguing look into the life of eighteen urban teens.
What are some of your favorite Nikki Grimes books? Tell us in the comments below!