cover image Jazmin's Notebook

Jazmin's Notebook

Nikki Grimes, Nancy J. Hopper. Dial Books, $15.99 (112pp) ISBN 978-0-8037-2224-8

Hard times in 1960s Harlem do not squelch the ambitions of Grimes's (Growin'; Raining Laughter) doughty protagonist, nor inhibit Jazmin from penning her eloquent ideas. Readers will be drawn into Jazmin's neighborhood, where they meet the characters who have made an impact on the teen with ""coke-bottle spectacles"" and ""chicken-legs"": Jazmin's mother, institutionalized for alcoholism; her protective sister, CeCe; her best friend, Destinee; and Crew, a professional gambler who is sweet on Cece (he secretly sees to it that the pair can pay their bills). In this slender volume, Grimes depicts both the humor and tenacity of an adolescent who spent most of her childhood in foster homes and is determined to make something of herself. Jazmin's poems, sprinkled among her journal entries, crystallize her emotions from joy and reverence (""The library/ is no place to kneel/ but this cathedral of books/ feels holy"") to sorrow (e.g., ""The homes/ are just fine./ It's the people/ who are broken""). Her prose expresses a more detailed account of her fears (contending with rats, potential rapists and school bullies) and hopes (laughing with CeCe, celebrating holidays and observing signs of her mother's recovery). An articulate, admirable heroine, Jazmin leaps over life's hurdles with agility and integrity. Ages 12-up. (June)