Friday, February 9, 2018

One Last Word (Nikki Grimes)

Author:  Nikki Grimes

Illustrator:  Multiple

Target Ages: 10 and up

Genre: Poetry

Publisher Summary:
In this emotional and thought-provoking book of poetry, bestselling author Nikki Grimes finds inspiration from poets of the Harlem Renaissance.  Moved by the evocative verse of legendary writers from the era, Grimes has composed gorgeous new poetry with timely themes for today.  By using the “Golden Shovel” poetic form, she has created wholly original poems based on the works of master poets like Langston Hughes, Georgia Douglas Johnson, Jean Toomer, and others who enriched history during the Harlem Renaissance. 

Past and present come together in classic and newly composed poems that will inspire meaningful reflection for generations to come. 

Favorite Poem Pair:
“As the Eagle Soars”
by Jean Toomer
It takes a well-spent lifetime, and perhaps more, to crystallize in us that for which we exist.
Let your doing be an exercise, no an exhibition.
Man is a nerve of the cosmos, dislocated, trying to quiver into place.
A true individual is not conformative but formative.
We move and hustle but lack rhythm.
We should have a living spirit and the ability to spiritualize experience.
We do not suffer:  seldom does our essence suffer, but pride, vanity, egotism suffer in us.
My breathing is the Great Breath into nostrils.
Whatever is, is sacred.

“No Hamster Here”
by Nikki Grimes
Son, it is all too easy to let
this world’s bullies puncture your
pride, set you on a wild-goose chase of doing
whatever crazy thing it takes to “show them.” Don’t be
a hamster on that wheel.  We real men know it’s only an
exercise in futility.  Shake off any insults.  Exercise
your unique talents to learn, grow, be your best—not
to prove anything to anyone, though that may well be an
added benefit!  Life is an art.  Son, not an exhibition.

This anthology begins with a short introduction to the Harlem Renaissance as well as the poetic form (the Golden Shovel) used.  A variety of illustrations from diverse artists like Pat Cummings, Christopher Myers, and Brian Pinkney compliment the poems. The book ends with biographical information on each poet for easy reference.

One Last Word is the most challenging collection of poems geared for children I have read.  This anthology is not a quick read.  The poems demand to be examined and reexamined closely.   

The topics are challenging—coming of age, racism, injustice, and bullying.  However, hope, beauty, courage, and empowerment are also interwoven throughout.

T.S. Eliot states that when a new work is created, it is set among the monuments, adding to and altering the order. Thomas C. Foster describes this intertexuality as a barrel of eels:  “When a writer creates a new eel, it wiggles its way into the barrel, muscles its path into the great teeming mass from which it came in the first place.  It’s a new eel, but it shares its eelness with all those other eels in the barrel or have ever been in the barrel.” By not only responding to various poems but also borrowing lines in an inventive way, Grimes demonstrates intertexuality and inspires readers to also become part of the conversation.    

One Last Word is a memorable collection for the classroom or personal reflection.

Ideas for Extension Activities at Home or Lesson Plans for Teachers:

Historical Connections:
Harlem Renaissance

For more great poems, visit the Poetry Friday Round-Up.


  1. Oh oh oh, I have to find this one! Thank you!

  2. I love Nikki Grimes' advice in her poem. She has an amazing talent.

  3. Great review. I absolutely love the last line of Nikki's poem. (And such strong, warm timbre of voice throughout.)

  4. I want to read this book. Thank you for sharing this review.

  5. It's a wonderful review that shows the book in all its expertise and wonder. I love the book, too.

  6. Thanks for spotlighting this amazing book!

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. Terrific review - thank you. I actually came across my copy today. (& the art is exquisite, too.)

  9. I love this book, but don't remember this poem! It would be perfect for my middle school reading class. I'm sharing it this week! Thanks!

  10. Sounds like an amazing book. Thanks for sharing it.

  11. A wonderful, thoughtful review! And I agree, it's a remarkable book.

  12. The Golden Shovel format is so interesting! This collection of poems has been on my list to read for a while... I guess I should bump it up the list. Thanks so much for the review!

  13. It's an AMAZING Book!! Our 7th graders are reading it and appears to love it! We have to do many close reads/deep dives for our students to understand the meaning behind most of the poems as the population at our school is 95% Latinx and about 5% Black.


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