Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Words with Wings by Nikki Grimes

This novel-in-verse tackles quite a few issues using a small amount of words. Nikki Grimes shows how word choice and metaphors can create a powerful story. Gabriella, is prone to daydreaming. When her parents divorce her daydreaming interferes with her classroom attention. Her teacher recognizes that she is coping with her parents separation through daydreams and he helps her to channel them in a productive manner. The adults recognize that Gabby's daydreams make her a vivid writer as Gabby learns to write she discovers her own voice and self in her words.

Gabby dreams in order to escape from her parents arguments. Later they take over her thoughts so much that she frustrates her mom and teacher who need her to focus more on tasks at hand. At first they try to get her to stop daydreaming altogether, but she becomes so unhappy the teacher tries a different approach telling her to "slide her daydreams in a drawer." He acknowledges the importance of dreams but tries to help her see the importance of paying attention when he's teaching a lesson. When he catches her writing a daydream down he is excited by the quality of it. He decides to give students 15 minutes a day to write down their daydreams. Gabby's mom also recognizes that her daughter's writing and daydreaming are a worthwhile activity. Gabby is powerless in school and her daydreaming gives her some control of the world around her. It was refreshing to have the adults learn from Gabby and reminded me of how much the students at my school have taught me or inspired me to be better at what I do.

The font changes in the story when the reader is in Gabby's dreams or she has a flashback to what it was like when her dad lived with them. These shifts have some gorgeous metaphors and word choices. One of my favorites is Waterfall: "Say 'waterfall,'/ and the dreary winter rain/ outside my classroom window/ turns to liquid thunder,/ pounding into a clear pool/ miles below,/ and I can't wait/ to dive in."  Talk about giving words wings. I love that image of "liquid thunder." This would make a good read aloud for grades 4-5.

4 Smileys

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