Garvey’s Choice, Nikki Grimes
Garvey is a middle school aged boy who is in a tough spot both at home and at school. At home, his father tries endlessly to connect with Garvey through sports, but Garvey has no interest in sports. He’d much rather read, learn about astronomy, play chess or listen to music, especially to Luther Vandross, all of which makes Garvey feel like a great disappointment to his father. He compensates for his guilt and disconnect with his father by overeating which leads to problems at school where he is teased and bullied by peers about his weight.
Fortunately, Garvey finds happiness and connection in his one and only true friend, Joe. Joe helps Garvey navigate his way through challenges both at home and at school. One day, while sitting in class, Garvey hears music coming from a nearby classroom. Joe tells Garvey that chorus is a new club at school and he strongly encourages Garvey to audition for the chorus because he’s overheard Garvey’s strong vocal abilities when Garvey sings or hums to himself.
Garvey is torn about auditioning for the chorus. What will the kids at school say? What will his father think? Garvey’s choice about chorus resolves the challenges Garvey faces both at home and at school in an unexpected and heartwarming way.
The most impressive part about Garvey’s Choice is the way author, Nikki Grimes, tells this psychologically complex story using so few words in such an artistic way. The book is written in Tanka, which is an ancient Japanese poetry form using five lines. Traditional Tanka poems focus on mood and Grimes has excelled in using Tanka to set the perfect mood and tone for this inspiring story. – Cheryl Swenson