cover image From a Child's Heart

From a Child's Heart

Nikki Grimes. Just Us Books, $15.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-940975-44-6

With an emphasis on upbeat family relationships, the 13 poems in this collection call to mind the easy sentimentality evoked by greeting cards and Norman Rockwell paintings. According to the note at the beginning of the volume, Grimes wishes to ``share'' the ``prayers of her childhood'' when she ``talked to God about her hopes, her fears, her longings, and all the ordinary, everyday concerns that touched her life.'' Unfortunately, many of the poems are so coy and precious, and so adult in perspective, that the ``prayers'' often seem more like sermons directed at a young African American audience rather than offerings ``straight from the heart'' of a child, as the poet claims. ``I'm little now,'' says the child in the opening poem, but ``I believe I want to be / a credit to the human race.'' A child who has a book report due and a math test asks for ``a miracle from God'' but then says, ``Say what? / I should study for the test? / Read the book? Do my best?'' A young dancer asks God to be chosen for a solo `` `cause I'm good,'' and not ``just 'cause the color of my skin keeps me from fitting in.'' More successful than the poems, Joysmith's soft-toned, pastels of children and their families offer positive portraits of friends and families. Ages 7-11. (Oct.)