One Last Word: Wisdom from the Harlem Renaissance

Nikki Grimes. Bloomsbury, $18.99 (128p) ISBN 978-1-61963-554-8
“Can I really find/ fuel for the future/ in the past?” asks Grimes (Words with Wings) in the opening poem of this slim, rich volume. Her answer is a graceful and resounding yes. Using the Golden Shovel poetic form, which borrows words from another poem and uses them at the end of each line in a new piece, Grimes both includes and responds to works from poets of the Harlem Renaissance, including Gwendolyn Bennett, Countee Cullen, and Langston Hughes. Thus, a line from Georgia Douglas Johnson’s “Calling Dreams” (“The right to make my dreams come true”) provides “anchor words” (highlighted in bold) for Grimes’s “The Sculptor,” which emphasizes seizing what one desires (“Dreams do not come./ They are carved, muscled into something solid, something true”). 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. Interspersed artwork from African-American artists, including R. Gregory Christie, Brian Pinkney, and Elizabeth Zunon, and brief biographies of each poet flesh out a remarkable dialogue between past and present. Ages 10–14. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 10/24/2016
Release date: 01/03/2017
Genre: Children's
Ebook - 978-1-61963-555-5
Paperback - 128 pages - 978-1-68119-602-2
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