Oh Brother

writ­ten by Nik­ki Grimes
illus­trat­ed by Mike Ben­ny
Amis­tad, 2007

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Oh, Brother

From the Book

It’s bad enough that Xavier’s new step­broth­er, Chris, has moved into Xavier’s room, but now it looks like he’s also try­ing to steal Mami by being the per­fect kid.

Chris’ “Mr. Per­fect” act may fool grown-ups, but Xavier can see straight through it. He promis­es him­self that he’ll nev­er become real broth­ers with such a fake.

No broth­ers allowed! Ever!

… right?

In twen­ty pow­er­ful poems, two strangers learn to become broth­ers. Nik­ki Grimes cap­tures the strug­gles — and even­tu­al sweet­ness — of bring­ing togeth­er a family.


Lis­ten to Nik­ki Grimes read “Oh, Broth­er” from Oh, Broth­er:


When his moth­er remar­ries, a young boy resents his new step­broth­er until he dis­cov­ers they have a lot in com­mon .… Twen­ty poems laced with emo­tion chron­i­cle Xavier’s jour­ney from anger to accep­tance, while [Mike] Ben­ny’s strong goauche illus­tra­tions cap­ture his emo­tion­al strug­gle to embrace his new her­mano and their new fam­i­ly. Ide­al for kids cop­ing with new step-sib­lings.” (Kirkus Reviews)

Snap­py laguage and var­ied rhyme schemes ener­gize these vers­es describ­ing step-sib­ling rival­ry in a new­ly blend­ed, inter­ra­cial fam­i­ly. Xavier bemoans his cir­cum­stances: ‘Every­one in this house/is a step, now/ Stepmom/Stepdad … /In my mind,/I turn them into steps/I can climb./ And when I reach/the top,/I rule.” … Through­out, the illus­tra­tor favors out­size char­ac­ters with enor­mous eyes and mouths, exag­ger­at­ing Xavier’s shift­ing emo­tions (and tak­ing advan­tage of the book’s large trim size). The styl­ized char­ac­ters also com­ple­ment the humor and the deft poet­ic shifts as Grimes traces Xavier’s tumul­tuous route to friend­ship with his new step­broth­er, Chris … the art and poems cap­ture and mem­o­rably con­vey a range of emo­tions.” (Pub­lish­ers Week­ly)

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