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A Pocketful of Poems

by Nikki Grimes
Illustrated by Javaka Steptoe

Published by Clarion, 2001
32 pages
ISBN: 0-395-93868-6

Ages 8 - 14

Nikki Grimes's collection of 14 playful poems is all about the feel, weight, and importance of words. The poems, written in the voice of a young Black girl named Tiana, are examinations of what different words mean to her, what they make her think, and how they make her feel. In the opening poem, "Tiana," she writes about her name: "Mama says, like me, it's precious." She writes about "Moon" as a "night word." "Hot" is a "thirsty word." "Harlem" is a "restless word." Each short poem explores its title word in Tiana's fresh, open voice, with wonderfully child-centered imagery. Each poem is presented on a two-page spread that also features a haiku relating to the word or idea being explored in Tiana's voice, or to the time of year. What a wonderful way to think about the importance of a single word, and of choosing words carefully, for poem-making, or for everyday life. Adding to the power of this slim volume are Javaka Steptoe's cut-paper and found-object collages. These are more than mere backdrops for the words -- they are visual poems. CCBC categories: Poetry; Seasons and Celebrations.  © Cooperative Children's Book Center

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