Gabby daydreams. At her new school, Abby gets in as much trouble for daydreaming in class as she did in her old school, before her parents’ divorce. She also has trouble making new friends. Eventually, Gabby tries to make her mother and her teacher happy by attempting to quit daydreaming. Her teacher tells her that there are good times to daydream, and soon, Gabby makes a friend in an artistic boy named David. When Gabby’s daydreaming and David’s doodling continue to be a problem, the teacher comes up with an idea to have a designated class daydreaming time. Gabby’s mother says that she wishes she could write like Gabby, and the validation from two people whose opinions matter so much to her change everything for Gabby.
The book is composed of free verse, mostly unrhyming poems, but the occasional rhyme catches the eye and ear, lending them extra power. Grimes pays high attention to language, and the result is rhythmic and lovely writing.
The poems reveal rich imagery and symbolism throughout, particularly in Gabby’s word poems. The word poems are effective at showing how a single word or image can evoke scenes, memories, or in Gabby’s voice, fully-imagined worlds.
Gabby is endearing as a character. She tries so hard to meet the expectations of the people around her, who obviously care for her, but often misunderstand her. She is the rare character who invokes sympathy without being pathetic and who is not beaten down by her powerlessness.
Grimes makes sadness as beautiful to read as joy. Her skill with both language and story creates in this book something remarkable.
WORDS WITH WINGS earned a starred review from Kirkus, which called the book a “finely wrought narrative…with perfect breaks of line and effortless shifts from reality to dream states and back.” Booklist also gave the book a starred review, stating that the “language is vivid, rhythmic, and figurative” and that “plain or fancy, Grimes’ words speak to the daydreamer in every reader” (Nikki Grimes: The Poetry Zone 2015).
Children’s Literature Assembly, 2014 Notable Children’s Books in the English Language Arts, National Council of Teachers of English
Coretta Scott King Author Honor book
Junior Library Guild
Kirkus Reviews Best Books of 2013
Lee Bennett Hopkins/Penn State Award master list
Maryland Black-Eyed Susan Book Award finalist, 2015-2016
Nerdy Book Club finalist
Nevada Young Reader Award Finalists for the Young Reader 2016
Pennsylvania Keystone to Reading Elementary Book Award finalist
BROWN GIRL DREAMING by Jacqueline Woodson
EVA OF THE FARM by Dia Calhoun
INSIDE OUT AND BACK AGAIN by Thanhha Lai
A POCKETFUL OF POEMS by Nikki Grimes
THE WILD BOOK by Margarita Engle
The best activity to go along with this book is daydreaming. Let your imagination run wild, and write or draw what you see!
Image in the public domain, retrieved from Wikimedia Commons
Grimes, Nikki. 2013. WORDS WITH WINGS. Honesdale, Pennsylvania: WordSong. ISBN 9781590789858
Nikki Grimes: The Poetry Zone. Accessed Sept 28 2015. http://www.nikkigrimes.com/books/bkwordswithwings.html