Friday, August 12, 2016

Poetry Friday with a review of Garvey's Choice

I used to consider the idea of a novel written in verse rather intimidating. How could such a thing work? Wouldn't it be hard to read? Then, some years ago I read a wonderful mid-grade novel in verse and I became a staunch fan of this storytelling form. In fact, much gleeful rubbing of hands takes place when a new novel in verse arrives at my house.

Today's poetry title is a novel in verse that moved me so much that I felt compelled to read it twice in one day. There is so much to be found in the words, and so much to consider as one comes to understand what Garvey's life has been like.

Garvey's ChoiceGarvey’s Choice
Nikki Grimes
Poetry
For ages 9 and up
Boyds Mills Press, 2016, 978-1-62979-740-3
One of Garvey’s favorite things in life is books, in particular ones that are full of science fiction stories that transport him to distant galaxies. Unfortunately, Garvey’s dad does not appreciate Garvey’s love of books. In fact he is scornful of his son’s interest in books and constantly comments that Garvey should play sports, and that he should roughhouse the way he did with his dad. Being active in this way is the “normal” thing for a boy to do. He constantly tries to turn Garvey into “someone I’m not.”
   Garvey’s father’s disdain and lack of understanding makes Garvey seek refuge in food and sweet drinks, and so he has gained weight. His father’s words cut into Harvey, and were it not for his mother, his big sister, and his best friend, Jo, Garvey would be completely alone.
   Garvey’s already difficult life gets a lot worse when he goes back to school in the fall. He is teased and bullied about his size and he takes refuge in hummed songs so that he can drown out the cutting words of his persecutors. For Garvey, his own music, or the music he hears around him, soothes and makes his inner pain less acute.
   One day Garvey asks his father about his grandfather and learns that his grandfather was a strong silent type too. It is no surprise then that Garvey’s father is not exactly chatty. He also learns that his father and grandfather connected by talking about football, and Garvey realizes that maybe this is why his father so much wants Garvey to be interested in football too.
   One day at school Jo encourages Garvey to join the chorus club. Garvey goes around humming all the time anyway so why not. In Jo’s opinion Garvey’s voice is “choice,” and he should “let others hear it.” Garvey is afraid to try chorus for a while, but finally he gets up the courage to go to a club meeting. Afraid to the bone he still manages to show the people in the club what he can do and he is accepted promptly. Suddenly Garvey’s life opens up and there is joy in it. The singing is wonderful, and he even makes a new friend, a boy called Manny who, like Garvey, has a father who disapproves of him.
   Though Garvey’s new hobby makes him happy, he refuses to tell his parents about it. What if his father disapproves? Surely it is safer not to give his father more ammunition to use against him.
   Written using a series of tankas, a Japanese poetry form, this incredible novel in verse takes us into the life of a unhappy boy who, as we ‘watch,’ finds a new interest that has a profound effect on his life. Nikki Grimes captures to perfection the way in which music can transform a person, and how it can open doors that have always been firmly closed before.
   At the back of the book the author tells us a little about tankas and how they are written.

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