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One last word : wisdom from the Harlem Renaissance

The Coretta Scott King Award-winning author of What Is Goodbye? presents a collection of poetry inspired by the Harlem Renaissance and complemented by full-color artwork by such esteemed artists as Pat Cummings, Brian Pinkney and Sean Qualls. - (Baker & Taylor)

"In this collection of poetry, Nikki Grimes looks afresh at the poets of the Harlem Renaissance -- including voices like Langston Hughes, Georgia Douglas Johnson, and many more writers of importance and resonance from this era -- by combining their work with her own original poetry. Using "The Golden Shovel" poetic method, Grimes has written a collection of poetry that is as gorgeous as it is thought-provoking. This special book also includes original artwork in full-color from some of today's most exciting African American illustrators, who have created pieces of art based on Nikki's original poems. Featuring art by: Cozbi Cabrera, R. Gregory Christie, Pat Cummings, Jan Spivey Gilchrist, Nikki Grimes, E. B. Lewis, Frank Morrison, Brian Pinkney, Sean Qualls, James Ransome, Javaka Steptoe, Shadra Strickland, and Elizabeth Zunon. A foreword, an introduction to the history of the Harlem Renaissance, author's note, poet biographies, and index makes this not only a book to cherish, but a wonderful resource and reference as well"-- - (Baker & Taylor)

Presents selections from the author's poems combined with works of the Harlem Renaissance poets about the experiences of African Americans facing discrimination and hardship in America. - (Baker & Taylor)

From the New York Times bestselling and Coretta Scott King award-winning author Nikki Grimes comes an emotional, special new collection of poetry inspired by the Harlem Renaissance -- paired with full-color, original art from today's most exciting African-American illustrators. - (McMillan Palgrave)

"One Last Word is the work of a master poet." --Kwame Alexander, Newbery Medal-winning author of The Crossover

From the New York Times bestselling and Coretta Scott King award-winning author Nikki Grimes comes an emotional, special new collection of poetry inspired by the Harlem Renaissance--paired with full-color, original art from today's most exciting African-American illustrators.

Inspired by the writers of the Harlem Renaissance, bestselling author Nikki Grimes uses "The Golden Shovel" poetic method to create wholly original poems based on the works of master poets like Langston Hughes, Georgia Douglas Johnson, Jean Toomer, and others who enriched history during this era.

Each poem is paired with one-of-a-kind art from today’s most exciting African American illustrators--including Pat Cummings, Brian Pinkney, Sean Qualls, James Ransome, Javaka Steptoe, and many more--to create an emotional and thought-provoking book with timely themes for today’s readers.

A foreword, an introduction to the history of the Harlem Renaissance, author's note, poet biographies, and index makes this not only a book to cherish, but a wonderful resource and reference as well.

A 2017 New York Public Library Best Kids Book of the Year
A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2017, Middle Grade
A School Library Journal Best Book of 2017, Nonfiction

- (McMillan Palgrave)

Author Biography

Nikki Grimes is a New York Times bestselling author and the recipient of the Children's Literature Legacy Award, the Virginia Hamilton Literary Award, and the NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children. Her distinguished works include the Printz Honor and Sibert Honor book Ordinary Hazards; NAACP Image Award nominee Planet Middle School; Coretta Scott King Award winner Bronx Masquerade; Coretta Scott King Author Honor books Jazmin’s Notebook, Talkin’ About Bessie, Dark Sons, The Road to Paris, and Words with Wings, which was also named an ALA Notable Book; and What Is Goodbye?, an ALA Notable Book. She lives in Corona, California.

- (McMillan Palgrave)

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Booklist Reviews

Inspired by poets of the Harlem Renaissance, Grimes showcases 15 of their short poems and follows each with one of her own, in which every word in a line, or lines, from the original becomes the last word of a line in the new work. Her poems, drawing from the works of poets such as Paul Laurence Dunbar and Langston Hughes, add contemporary dimensions to timeless themes, such as growing up in hard times and finding the strength, hope, and courage to carry on. Most of her free-verse poems are written from a kid's point of view, though a few reflect the thoughts and advice of adults. Fourteen accomplished African American illustrators, including many winners of Coretta Scott King illustrator awards or honors, contributed illustrations for Grimes' poems. Though most of the pictures were not available in final form, the two seen in color are strong, distinctive, and vibrant. This anthology has plenty to offer, including effective introductions to Harlem Renaissance poets, well-expressed ideas and images, and, for young writers, a challenging way to turn admiration into inspiration. Copyright 2016 Booklist Reviews.

BookPage Reviews

A celebration of the Harlem Renaissance

"We live in a time when life is hard for many people. Yet there is reason to hope and to dig deep for the strength hidden inside of us." From award-winning poet Nikki Grimes comes this prophetic statement, which introduces One Last Word, a collection that combines Harlem Renaissance poetry with clever, thought-provoking and intricately formed poems of her own. 

Grimes begins her book with reflections on the notable poets of the early 20th-century Harlem Renaissance, which includes Countee Cullen, Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes and other lesser-known poets, especially emerging women writers. They wrote about race, humanity's role in the universe, anger, beauty and more. Grimes' collection couldn't come at a better time, as she notes: "These literary lights, writing at a time when the lynching of black men filled the news, were more than familiar with racial profiling, racial violence and every variety of injustice imaginable. Yet they ascended to great heights in spite of it all."

In addition to their words ringing true, the real forte of this book are Grimes' "golden shovel" poems, a challenging form in which she takes a line (or in some cases, a whole poem) and pens a new creation using the words from the original. Her poems are freshly made while echoing her predecessors.

Interspersed with colorful artwork from Sean Qualls, Christopher Myers, Javaka Steptoe and other lauded African-American illustrators, this is an important and timely poetry collection.


This article was originally published in the January 2017 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

Copyright 2017 BookPage Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews

The vibrancy of the Harlem Renaissance is illuminated in this provocative poetry collection. Grimes's own contemporary-set verse pays tribute to the greats using the unusual Golden Shovel form, in which each line of her poem ends with one of the words in a line from the original. Themes include self-pride, aspirations, and bullying. Fifteen black artists offer absorbing and engaging artistic interpretations. Bib., ind. Copyright 2017 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews

The vibrancy of the Harlem Renaissance is illuminated in Grimes's provocative poetry collection. In a tribute to the great poets of the era, she offers new verse with contemporary settings using an unusual form called Golden Shovel, in which each line of the new poem ends with one of the words in a line from the original. For example, from Langston Hughes's "The Negro Speaks of Rivers" she renders a poem about a son in a "dwindled" family who proclaims, "…I stand strong like / a tree my baby brothers can lean on. I try to be the / raft that helps carry them over this life's rough rivers." Themes of the new poems include self-pride, aspirations, bullying, and peer relations. A clean layout that juxtaposes each original poem with its new verse helps readers make thematic connections. In a framing device, a contemporary girl contemplating a world full of hate and fear revisits, on her teacher's advice, the powerful works of eight prominent Harlem Renaissance figures, including Gwendolyn Bennett, Jean Toomer, and Paul Laurence Dunbar. Returning from her dip into the "glory days" of the Harlem Renaissance, she feels hopeful, reassuring her sister that "life will be rough, / but we've got the stuff / to make it." The poems are complemented by original artistic interpretations by fifteen black artists (e. g., E. B. Lewis, Javaka Steptoe, Christopher Myers, Shadra Strickland) who offer absorbing and engaging images. This enterprising and unusual volume not only introduces the Harlem Renaissance to young readers but also presents the challenge of a new way to write and enjoy poetry. Poet and artist biographies, sources, and an index are appended. pauletta brown bracy Copyright 2017 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews

Timely and thought-provoking, Grimes' collection transports young readers through the enduring expressiveness of the Harlem Renaissance, juxtaposing classic poems of the era with her own original work and full-color art by contemporary African-American illustrators. Grimes' choice of form, the Golden Shovel poem, does the magic of weaving generations of black verbal artistry into a useful, thematic, golden thread. A challenge indeed, the structure demands taking either a short poem in its entirety or a line from that poem, known as a "striking line," in order to serve as the foundation for a new poem in which each line ends with one word from the original. With this, the classic opening line of Jean Toomer's "Storm Ending" ("Thunder blossoms gorgeously above our heads") is reinvigorated within new verse as Grimes reminds young readers that "The truth is, every day we rise is like thunder— / a clap of surprise. Could be echoes of trouble, or blossoms / of blessing." Grimes joins the work of historic black wordsmiths such as Georgia Douglas Johnson, Countee Cullen, Langston Hughes, plus the less-anthologized yet incredibly insightful Gwendolyn Bennett and Clara Ann Thompson, with her contemporary characters and thematic entanglements to bring forth a Harlem Renaissance that is as close to the present as the weight of injustice and unfulfilled promise that they spoke through. This striking, passionate anthology reminds young readers and adult fans of poetry alike that while black life remains "no crystal stair," there remains reason to hope and a reserve of courage from which to draw. (historical note, author's notes, biographies, sources, index) (Poetry. 10 & up) Copyright Kirkus 2016 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews

"Can I really find/ fuel for the future/ in the past?" asks Grimes (Words with Wings) in the opening poem of this slim, rich volume. Her answer is a graceful and resounding yes. Using the Golden Shovel poetic form, which borrows words from another poem and uses them at the end of each line in a new piece, Grimes both includes and responds to works from poets of the Harlem Renaissance, including Gwendolyn Bennett, Countee Cullen, and Langston Hughes. Thus, a line from Georgia Douglas Johnson's "Calling Dreams" ("The right to make my dreams come true") provides "anchor words" (highlighted in bold) for Grimes's "The Sculptor," which emphasizes seizing what one desires ("Dreams do not come./ They are carved, muscled into something solid, something true"). Through a chorus of contemporary voices—including proud parents, striving children, and weary but determined elders—Grimes powerfully transposes the original poems' themes of racial bias, hidden inner selves, beauty, and pride into the here and now. Interspersed artwork from African-American artists, including R. Gregory Christie, Brian Pinkney, and Elizabeth Zunon, and brief biographies of each poet flesh out a remarkable dialogue between past and present. Ages 10–14. (Jan.) Copyright 2016 Publisher Weekly.

School Library Journal Reviews

Gr 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.—Lauren Strohecker, McKinley Elementary School, Elkins Park, PA. Copyright 2016 School Library Journal.

Table of Contents

Preface 1(1)
The Harlem Renaissance 2(3)
Author's Note 5(1)
Poetry Form 6(5)
Emergency Measures by Nikki Grimes
Storm Ending by Jean Toomer
Truth by Nikki Grimes
Life and Death by Clara Ann Thompson
Crucible of Champions by Nikki Grimes
For a Poet by Countee Cullen
A Safe Place by Nikki Grimes
Calling Dreams
Georgia Douglas Johnson
The Sculptor by Nikki Grimes
We Wear the Mask by Paul Laurence Dunbar
Jabari Unmasked by Nikki Grimes
Mother to Son by Langston Hughes
Lessons by Nikki Grimes
As the Eagle Soars by Jean Toomer
No Hamsters Here by Nikki Grimes
An excerpt from To Usward by Gwendolyn Bennett
In Search of a Superpower by Nikki Grimes
Hope by Georgia Douglas Johnson
On Bully Patrol by Nikki Grimes
The Negro Speaks of Rivers by Langston Hughes
David's Old Soul by Nikki Grimes
To a Dark Girl by Gwendolyn Bennett
Through the Eyes of Artists by Nikki Grimes
Common Dust by Georgia Douglas Johnson
A Dark Date for Josh by Nikki Grimes
No Images by Waring Cuney
Blurred Beauty by Nikki Grimes
The Minor Key by Clara Ann Thompson
Common Denominator by Nikki Grimes
I Leave the Glory Days by Nikki Grimes
Poet Biographies
Artist Biographies
Acknowledgments 115(1)
Sources 116(2)
Index 118

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