Thursday, February 20, 2014

Book Love: Words with Wings

I'm feeling the love...

Last week, my Five for Friday party was the best yet.  With twenty Valentine kisses collected on one page, it was heartwarming to see the delicious variety of lip-smacking ditties.  If you participated or visited, thank you!  And if you haven't read all twenty, I invite you to go bask in all the smoochy goodness.

Today I am sharing the kiss of a special book-- 
                        Nikki Grimes' Words with Wings.

Words with Wings
Wordsong, September 1, 2013
ISBN: 978-1590789858
Recently awarded a 2014 Coretta Scott King Author Honor and a place on the ALSC Notables List, this verse novel has been no stranger to Poetry Friday.  Tamera Will Wissinger first featured Words with Wings on August 29, 2013, after attending the ALA Poetry Blast; Laura Purdie Salas featured it on September 26, 2013 and again, just last week; and it was featured on Diane Mayr's librarian blog, Kurious Kitty's Kurio Kabinet, on November 15, 2013.  Today it's my turn.

Words with Wings is the story of Gabby, a girl who is prone to daydreaming, and her teacher, Mr. Spicer, who helps her to channel her imagination's wanderings.  I love how this book celebrates creativity, friendship, and a child's indomitable spirit, and also showcases the talents of an exceptional teacher. Narrated in verse that is beautiful, accessible, and above all, honest, these are adjectives that can also be used to describe the author of this well-crafted story.

I recently had the pleasure of meeting Nikki Grimes in person.  The event, which included a reading and an opportunity for questions, was sponsored by our wonderful local Friends of the Library volunteer organization. (Let's hear it for community book lovers!)

Of course it was wonderful to hear Nikki read her own words, but what I enjoyed even more was the discussion that followed-- getting to know this award-winning poet on a more personal level, discovering the connections between Nikki's own childhood and that of main character Gabby, hearing Nikki's thoughts on the best way to teach poetry (NOTE TO TEACHERS: "Do not present poetry as castor oil!"), and the whole Q&A smorgasbord of poetry, process, and publishing.

I appreciated Nikki's honest and approachable rapport with the adults in the audience, but what struck me most was the way she responded to children's questions.  Maybe I'm imagining it, but I'd swear I saw a twinkle appear in her eye.  This was also my 11-year-old daughter's impression when Nikki Grimes visited her school the following day.  She was captivated by Nikki's presence, by the way she drew her into the story with her compelling reading-- using not only the words, but the pauses in between, and by the way Nikki made her feel "special" and "important" just because they were together at that moment in time.

Children are Nikki Grimes' number one priority.  Her books are the angels that sit on kids' shoulders, telling them, no, you are not alone.

Here is one of my favorite pieces from Words with Wings, used with the author's permission:


          The kids at my last school
          called me weird,
          and teased me,
          or left me to myself.
          Except for Cheri,
          who picked me
          to sit next to
          in kindergarten
          just because she saw me
          staring out the window
          and was dying to know
          what made me smile
          when all she saw
          were raindrops.
          I was shy about
          telling her at first,
          but Cheri didn't mind
          my daydreaming.
          She was color-blind, but said
          whenever I described
          my daydreams,
          it was like
          helping her see
          the rainbow.

          -Nikki Grimes, all rights reserved.

Thank you, Nikki, for helping others to see the rainbow as well.

It's always beautiful weather for poetry!  Please pay a visit to Karen Edmisten who is hosting today's Poetry Friday roundup.


  1. Loved your kisses parade Michelle. And this book is a treasure, to love & enjoy, & to read aloud to kids at school! How wonderful that you & your daughter got to see Nikki Grimes.

  2. What a great book cover! And I love your description of Nikki Grimes' "twinkle" and her way of making people feel special. Cheri sounds like someone with a good eye, color-blind or no.

  3. Thanks for sharing, Michelle! Nikki was our keynote speaker for our SCBWI Southern Breeze Springmingle last year, and we enjoyed her time with us. I love the way you describe your daughter's enthusiasm for her school visit. :0)

  4. This seems like the kind of visit one will always remember, perhaps even be life changing. It gave me chills. I love the idea of angels on the children's shoulders.

  5. Loved reading about your experience meeting Nikki, and that twinkle in her eye, and as Jeannine said, the school visit sounds like one of those life-changing moments. "Cheri" is wonderful. I'm looking forward to reading this book.

  6. Thanks for the plug! It is good to know that a successful poet can also be approachable. It's important for kids to know that "authors" are normal people!

  7. I just love that cover. Will look for this one for Ramona!

  8. I am envious that you met Nikki Grimes. No surprise that she has such a magical presence. Words with Wings flew around my classroom the last few weeks after I received my signed copy. One of my students wrote a poem for her reader response by stealing a line. Nikki inspires others with her words.

  9. How lucky you and your daughter were to meet Nikki Grimes and hear her read her poetry. I just love "Cheri" and will be ordering this book tomorrow. Thanks so much for sharing!

  10. Thank you, Michelle, for spotlighting Nikki with this beautiful and tender poem.