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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Garvey's Choice, by Nikki Grimes. Wordsong, Highlights. 2016. $21.99 ages 9 and up

"Joe caught me dancing
in first grade, during recess,
out back by the slide,
alone - or so I thought, till
Joe showed up and joined right in.

Seems funny now, 'cause
there was no music playing
and neither of us
minded or needed any.
We were our own melody."

Ms. Grimes uses tanka poems to share the story of a young man - chubby, non-athletic, Trekkie, lover of music and books, dreamer - whose father wants him to be so much more. He wants a sports star when he already has a daughter who is just that.

"Angie's the athlete.
Why should I compete with her?
"Why can't Garvey be
like his sister?" I heard Dad
ask when I was eight. Mom said,

"That's the wrong question.
Ask Garvey what interests him.
Talk to him, honey."
Yeah, Dad, I thought. Talk to me.
But will he? I wish I knew."

It isn't until Garvey strength in his voice while singing in the school chorus that his life changes for the better. What will his father say? How will his family react? His happiness is heartwarming, and readers will naturally compare it to the hurt he feels at the teasing words of some schoolmates. 

"The change bell always
sinks fear into me like teeth.
Ugly name-calling
leaves me with bloody bite marks:
lard butt, fatso, Mr. Tubs."

Garvey is courageous and uncertain, buoyed by his friendship with Joe while also turning to food and his love of science fiction to deal with his father's displeasure. Meeting Manny at chorus is a step toward acceptance of himself and what makes him special.

"Manny nudges me
when it's time for my solo.
Legs like spaghetti,
I worry that I might faint.
Eyes closed, I wait for courage.

A whisper at first,
the music in me rises.
Live inside the song.
I tell myself and I do.
Then comes the hush, and applause."

Beautifully told in perfect poetry, this is a book that will find fans in any middle school classroom. It would be a terrific readaloud as students explore their own talents, and the way they treat others. 

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