Garvey in the Dark, written by Nikki Grimes, published by Wordsong, an imprint of Astra Books for Young Readers
An emotional and timely verse novel that explores the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic alongside the BLM movement from a preteen boy’s perspective. Grimes’ use of the tanka form is a creative and useful method for conveying the various emotional moods that accompany that time, including everything from fear, anger, sadness, joy, triumph, and love. Her effective use of line breaks and rhythm create moving stand-alone poems that nonetheless contribute to telling an overall story. Grimes’ deft use of poetry in this verse novel constructs a poignant narrative while also exploring the possibilities of the form.
Nikki Grimes is a genius! She seamlessly weaves her contemporary tanka poems into a story that needs to be on every bookshelf. Garvey in the Dark is the story we all lived through in our own individual way as the pandemic locked us down in our homes throughout the world. Her words make us relive the horrors as the world shut down, toilet paper ran out, and police brutality continued to rise. It's powerful, emotional, and both beautiful and horrific.
The book becomes a part of our living memory and reality through its poetic storytelling. It captures the world, and its struggles through a child's perspective, and children all over the world will connect to the emotions expressed in the book.
Garvey in the Dark by Nikki Grimes isn't just a beautiful and emotional work of poetic fiction. It's also a time capsule of our shared past—a novel children can read twenty years from now to better understand the fear, confusion, isolation, and community we all felt in 2020, when the pandemic hit. This is combined with Garvey's experience as a young black boy grappling with racial injustice in America. Somehow, Grimes has managed to convey a global experience, a unique black experience, and a personal survivor experience, using the tanka (a Japanese poetry form that originated in the seventh century) from beginning to end. Our panel of judges was struck not just by the content of this work, but the beauty in which it was conveyed.