Thursday, March 29, 2007

Ms. Nikki Grimes

Now Reading: You Know You Love Me: A Gossip Girl Novel,
Just Finished: Sister Bernadette's Barking Dog: The Quirky History and Lost Art of Diagramming Sentences, The Road to Paris

Let's start off with The Road to Paris by Nikki Grimes. I'm not sure how I feel about this. I mean, it was a Coretta Scott King honor book this year and Grimes is a powerful writer but...

I'm not entirely sure what she was trying to do with this book and part of me wonders if she won the Coretta Scott King honor because there just weren't that many books with African-American characters published this year.

There isn't much of a plot to this-- Paris runs away from her latest foster home, is separated from her brother and placed in a new home that's really good. Over time, she adjusts to her new life and tries to find a balance between this family and her birth mom.

Even though we start at the end, and then flash back to the beginning, I was a little surprised when the end came around again-- it was a bit of a huh? already? moment.

The story is quiet and gentle, and I liked that about it, but I also wasn't overly attached to the characters.

I've seen a lot of reviews talking about how it's about a biracial girl trying to fit in an all-white town, and that's a part of it, but a smaller part than some of the other stuff and the main racism incident happens towards the end, and seemed forced and stilted and just didn't sit right with me. I really, really didn't like the way Paris held an 8-year-old girl accountable for her father's actions. I would say it seemed out of character, but I'm still not sure enough on Paris's character to know that. Also, I felt like the racial issues were almost an afterthought, and almost got in the way of the story I thought Grimes was trying to tell.

Like I said, it was well written with beautiful prose, but it still didn't grab me.

Earlier this year, I read Bronx Masquerade, also by Grimes.

This is a YA novel about an English class that has poetry slams on Friday and how the kids express themselves and get to know themselves through poetry.

Each chapter is a few pages of one of the kids talking and then the poem they read in class.

It was good, but I had two problems with this book.

1. The smart alec kid passes judgment at the end of every chapter, but it's always positive, which doesn't ring true.
2. This book proves that Nikki Grimes can't write a bad poem if she tried! And I really think she tried to make these poems have the voices of her characters and express their different styles, but she's just too good and these poems were just too good to be written by a group of high schoolers.

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