writ­ten by Nik­ki Grimes
Dial Books for Young Read­ers, 2002

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Read the follow-up book

Bronx Masquerade

From the book:

I woke up this morn­ing
exhaust­ed from hid­ing
the me of me
so I stand here con­fid­ing
there’s more to Devon
than jump shot and rim…
I dare you to peep
behind these eyes,
dis­cov­er the poet
in tough-guy disguise.…

from Bronx Mas­quer­ade
© 2002 by Nik­ki Grimes

Awards and Recognition

  • 2003 Coret­ta Scott King Author Award
  • Best Book for Young Adults
  • Chil­dren’s Lit­er­a­ture Choice
  • Quick Pick for Young Adult Reluc­tant Readers
  • Junior Library Guild Selection
  • New York Pub­lic Library Book for the Teen Age
  • Tayshas High School Read­ing List (Texas)
  • Notable Books for a Glob­al Society

In case you missed it, the Coret­ta Scott King Task Force hon­ored yours tru­ly with two book awards in 2003, the Author Award for Bronx Mas­quer­ade, and an Author Hon­or for Talkin’ About Bessie.

The pre­sen­ta­tion was made at a break­fast dur­ing the Amer­i­can Library Asso­ci­a­tion Con­fer­ence, held in Toron­to, Cana­da. Do you want to know what I said? Thought you’d nev­er ask! Click here to find out.



  This is almost like a play for 18 voic­es, as Grimes … moves her nar­ra­tion among a group of high school stu­dents in the Bronx. The Eng­lish teacher, Mr. Ward, accepts a set of poems from Wes­ley, his response to a month of read­ing poet­ry from the Harlem Renais­sance. Soon there’s an open-mike poet­ry read­ing, spon­sored by Mr. Ward, every month, and then lat­er, every week. The chap­ters in the stu­dents’ voic­es alter­nate with the poem read by that stu­dent, defi­ant, shy, ter­ri­fied. All of them, black, Lati­no, white, male, and female, talk about the unease and alien­ation endem­ic to their ages, and they do it in fresh and appeal­ing voic­es … Beyond those cap­sules are rich and com­plex teens, and their ten­ta­tive reach­ing out to each oth­er increas­es as though the poems they also find more of them­selves. (Kirkus Reviews, starred review)

A poet her­self, author Grimes cre­ates a mon­tage of voic­es whose com­mon­al­i­ty rests in their sense of iso­la­tion and yearn­ing to belong. Whether their poems…are in rap, free verse, or con­scious rhyme, these kids sur­prise one anoth­er in part with how much they are alike. In shared pain and need, they all become poets; as read­ers, we want to believe their indi­vid­ual poet­ic gifts, even as we hear Grimes’s con­sid­er­able tal­ent behind theirs … the book … suc­ceeds because it makes us want the best for these voic­es so clear­ly heard. (The Horn Book)

A flow­ing, rhyth­mic por­trait of the diver­si­ty and indi­vid­u­al­i­ty of teen char­ac­ters in a class­room in Any­where, U.S.A … Read­ers meet Tyrone, an aspir­ing song­writer who sees no use for school; Lupe, who thinks that becom­ing a moth­er would give her the love she lacks in her life; and Janelle, who is strug­gling with her body image … Com­pe­tent and reluc­tant read­ers alike will rec­og­nize and empathize with these teens. As always, Grimes gives young peo­ple exact­ly what they’re look­ing for — real char­ac­ters who show them they are not alone.” (School Library Jour­nal)

Buy this book:

Read the follow-up book