Southwest Sunrise

writ­ten by Nik­ki Grimes
illus­trat­ed by Wen­dell Minor
Blooms­bury, 2020

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Southwest Sunrise

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



  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)

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