cover image The Watcher

The Watcher

Nikki Grimes, illus. by Bryan Collier. Eerdmans, $17 (42p) ISBN 978-0-8028-5445-2

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. As the poems alternate between the children’s observations and pleas to God, readers learn that Tanya, who stutters and feels that other children “tease me into meanness,” bullies Jordan relentlessly. Jordan, sensing Tanya’s literal and emotional hunger, reaches out to her. The Golden Shovel form uses the words from the source poem to conclude lines in the new poem. Thus, “your coming and going” from verse eight of the psalm turns into Jordan’s thoughts on the children’s budding friendship: “Tanya’s attendance is perfect at dinnertime. ‘Your/ mom’s a good cook’ is her excuse for coming/ over every other day. But I don’t mind, and/ Mom’s glad to see how strong this friendship is going.” 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 of schoolchildren. Ages 6–10. Illustrator’s agent: Marcia Wernick, Wernick & Pratt. (Nov.)