Book Review: Garvey in the Dark by Nikki Grimes
When I’m reviewing books for professional publications, I stay quiet about them on social media. I’m always really excited once a review comes out to be able to talk about the book, finally! Here’s one of my most recent reviews, which originally appeared in an issue of School Library Journal.
Wordsong. Oct. 2022. 176p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781635925265.
Gr 4-8–This companion novel to Garvey’s Choice follows Garvey’s experiences living through the changes and upsets in 2020 that the start of the pandemic brought. Told in the modern form of tanka poems (31 syllables in five lines), this novel in verse, set in Southern California, shows the routine of daily life for Garvey—being with friends, going to school, attending church, creating music—and the increasing whispers of illness, death, and the looming threat of the “Invisible Beast” (as Garvey and his friend Manny call it). Garvey’s mother, a teacher, begins to work from home while his father, an essential worker, still must leave the house, risking exposure to the virus. As Garvey, who is Black, becomes stuck inside more than ever, he longs to participate in the BLM protests sweeping the world in the aftermath of the deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. He learns to manage his worries through a supportive family, his deep attachment to music, and books. As Garvey notes as the start of the book, the pandemic has left him different but also the same, a feeling many young readers may relate to. Though it feels rushed at times, this quick read, both in pacing and format, is a moving reflection on our recent past and the ongoing pandemic. Grimes, with her characteristic graceful, emotive poetry, incisively captures and uncertainty, exhaustion, fear, and isolation of the era.
VERDICT Top-notch writing with wide appeal. A hopeful tool for processing the pandemic, which has occupied a significant portion of students’ young lives.
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About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
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