written by Nikki Grimes
illustrated by Wendell Minor
A picture book that celebrates the beauty of the natural world and finding a new place to call home.
The beauty of the natural world is just waiting to be discovered …
When Jayden touches down in New Mexico, he’s uncertain how this place could ever be home. But if he takes a walk outside, he just might find something glorious.
Flowers in bright shades …
Birds and lizards and turtles, all with a story to tell …
Red rock pillars towering in the distance …
Turquoise sky as far as the eye can see …
Perhaps this place could be home after all.
Awards and Recognition
- ALA Notable Books List
- CCBC Choices 2021
- Kirkus Reviews, starred review
- School Library Journal, starred review
- “Guest Post: Nikki Grimes,” Poetry for Children, 3 April 2020
A young black child reluctantly moves from New York City to New Mexico. The young protagonist is not excited about leaving New York City and “the feeling of wow / craning my neck to study / the tops of skyscrapers” to move to New Mexico, where everything will be “browns and tans / …the only colors / deserts are good for” (a questionable choice of words). But on this first morning in New Mexico, the grumpy kid is gifted with a series of nature-based surprises. First, a mountain unnoticed the night before is waiting outside the “barless window.” Here and throughout the book, Minor’s lovely art captures the beauty of the Southwestern United States in gouache watercolors—in this case presenting a picturesque scene perfectly captured in a window frame surrounded by white space that makes the view all the more arresting. With the help of a field guide, the young protagonist sets off on a nature walk that reveals colorful flowers, birds, lizards, vistas, and more, all described with Grimes’ signature poetic lyricism and vividly depicted in Minor’s gorgeous illustrations. By the end of the walk, the intrepid budding naturalist is ready to give this beautiful new home a try. How glorious: a story about a black child experiencing the outdoors that is beautiful in every way. (Kirkus Reviews, starred review)
Moving is never easy, but it’s particularly tough for Jayden, a child moving from New York City to a desert home in New Mexico. Jayden’s transition from sullen to surprised, irritated to intrigued, is evident in his observant, lyrical narration. Initially he’s convinced that “browns and tans are the only colors deserts are good for.” Once he steps outside, however, he spies colorful “fancy-named flowers” like the winecup and yellow bells that he identifies using the field guide given to him by his mother. As he walks, he continues to spot more interesting plants and animals—hanging red chili peppers, black tips on magpie wings, and a kingly raven, so similar to the city’s crows. Though Jayden will likely continue to miss his old home, readers can feel confident that he’ll find new pleasures and treasures in his new one. Soft lines and gentle colors of gouache illustrations allow readers to share in Jayden’s discoveries. VERDICT A useful purchase for libraries. This evocative and engaging title can be read on several levels. (Maria B. Salvadore, School Library Journal, starred review)
Jayden’s experience of focusing on the beauty before him rather than on what he has left behind is an endearing example of making the best of a new situation. (Michelle H. Martin, The Horn Book)
The hallmark of Southwest Sunrise is the faith it puts in readers to answer Jayden’s questions. Regarding his initial one, “Why are we here?,” Grimes hints that the boy’s old neighborhood was dicey: he refers to his “barless window” in New Mexico, and he shivers from “the silence/ unbroken by/ the familiar sound of sirens.” As for Jayden’s question “What’s so great about/ New Mexico?,” Wendell Minor, whose awards combined with Grimes’s could fill a trophy case, answers with gouache watercolors that call to mind the rippling expansiveness of Georgia O’Keeffe’s famous homages to the book’s landscape. (Neil Beram, Shelf Awareness Pro)
… exquisitely drafted spreads by Minor … Lyrical lines by Grimes … Grimes and Minor show what braving unexpected change looks like and introduce the idea of making friends with a distinctive landscape. (Publishers Weekly)