Sometimes, writing really is a form of art. When I first scouted out the book, Garvey’s Choice, I thought it sounded like a good free-verse story. But I was wrong. It isn’t a no-rules format at all. Nikki Grimes, the author, wrote the entire story following a Japanese form of poetry called Tanka. Written in 5-line stanzas, following a five, seven, five, seven, seven pattern of syllables in each line, Tanka is at once a poem and a vehicle to tell Garvey’s story. To follow a strict pattern, while choosing words that capture the characters and their interactions, is amazing!
The story is short, impactful and touching.
Garvey is a boy who not only loves rhythm and music, but has a soulful singing voice, too. He’s sure his talents would be lost on his father though, who expects Garvey to play football. As a result, Garvey decides to hide his musical ability and elects to overeat to stuff down his unhappiness. Being taunted at school for his weight only makes matters worse Yet, Joe, his devoted friend, shores Garvey up and encourages him to try out for choir. With the pressures of football from dad, the unkind remarks from classmates and the insensitive teasing of his own family, Garvey doesn’t know if he has the strength to handle the possible repercussions if he makes the choice to share his voice.
The story is one of deep pain, intense longing and, ultimately, Garvey’s’ discovery that mustering the courage to make a choice can change his entire world.
By Nikki Grimes
Accelerated Reader Level: 3.6, but with the social issues and self-esteem struggles of Garvey, higher readers should not pass this one up.
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