NONFICTION

One Last Word: Wisdom from the Harlem Renaissance

illus. by various. 128p. bibliog. ebook available. index. Bloomsbury. Jan. 2017. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781619635548.
COPY ISBN
RedReviewStarGr 6 Up—In this innovative and powerful compendium, Grimes pairs original poems with classics from the Harlem Renaissance. In a brief historical note on the period, she acknowledges the significance of black artists giving voice to the experiences of black life and cites the continued relevance of the literature of the period in a society that, decades later, still struggles with racial identity and injustice. The author credits as inspiration the messages of hope, perseverance, survival, and positivity she finds in the work of poets like Countee Cullen, Georgia Douglas Johnson, and Langston Hughes, and she, too, explores these themes in her own poems. Furthermore, Grimes brilliantly uses the words of her literary predecessors to structure the book, employing the golden shovel, a form in which the words from selected lines or stanzas are borrowed, only to become the last words of each line in a new poem. The result is not only a beautiful homage to the Harlem Renaissance but also a moving reflection on the African American experience and the resilience of the human spirit: "The past is a ladder/that can help you/keep climbing." In addition, each pair of poems—each of Grimes's works follows the poem that inspired it—is accompanied by a full-color illustration by a prominent African American illustrator. Featured artists include Pat Cummings, E.B. Lewis, Christopher Myers, Brian Pinkney, and Javaka Steptoe, among others, and the back matter contains brief poet and illustrator biographies.
VERDICT This unique and extraordinary volume is a first purchase for all middle school poetry collections.

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