{book} brotherhood

30 days of pbDay Twenty-TwoOh, Brother!

By Nikki Grimes 

Illustration by Mike Benny

Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins 2008

oh-brotherIt’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. […] In twenty powerful poems, two strangers learn to become brothers. Nikki Grimes captures the struggles—and eventual sweetness—of bringing together a family.—publisher’s comments

While the story is told in poems and illustrations from Xavier’s point of view, there is still space made available for the other characters to develop personalities and motivations of their own. And even with the relatively few pages and brevity of most of the poems, Grimes and Benny are able to accomplish the transition from suspicion and resentment to brotherly support and oath-making.

The spatial relationships are remarked upon, territory and occasions, but Grimes also focuses a great deal on names: as identity; as forms of ownership and relationship. She completes a narrative in the twenty poems not only through linearity, but through thematic threads.

oh brother pages

The illustrations contribute significantly to narrative coherence while also imagining that which a poem would evoke. The style is real and the composition features the boys, primarily, large on the page. Their close-ups place them in an intimate range of the reader, and allude to the subjectivity of the narrator.

I really dig the presence of Mami, and her mad-skills at baseball. The portrayal of a family coming together is not without its struggles, but is also unapologetically exciting and wonderful. Grimes is not gushy, nor is Benny cute. Oh, Brother! is neither sappy nor coy, but a frank and clever way to handle its subject matter.


Nikki Grimes does not consider herself a bona fide storyteller, but, as she told an audience at the Library of Congress, she is happy to own the title Poet. Born and raised in New York City, Nikki began composing verse at the age of six and has been writing ever since that time.” A “New York Times bestselling author Nikki Grimes is the recipient of the 2006 NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children. Her distinguished works include ALA Notable book What is Goodbye?, Coretta Scott King Award winner Bronx Masquerade, and Coretta Scott King Author Honor books Jazmin’s Notebook, Talkin’ About Bessie, Dark SonsThe Road to Paris, and Words with Wings. Creator of the popular Meet Danitra Brown, Ms. Grimes lives in Corona, California. (biography)

Mike Benny lives in Austin, Texas and has been illustrating for over 15 years. Clients include RollingStone, Time, New Yorker, GQ, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, Major League Baseball, NFL, Arena Stage, Random House, Harper Collins, Simon and Schuster, Greenwillow and Scholastic.” Mike has also illustrated picture books: America’s White Table by Margot Theis Raven (Sleeping Bear Press 2005) and The Listeners by Gloria Whelan (Sleeping Bear Press 2009)

 {image belongs to Mike Benny, its words are Nikki Grimes’}


Published by L

I read, and I write. and until recently, I sold books.

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