Saturday, March 7, 2009

Danitra Brown Leaves Town

Grimes, Nikki. 2002. DANITRA BROWN LEAVES TOWN. by Floyd Cooper. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers. ISBN 0688131557

DANITRA BROWN LEAVES TOWN is about two young girls who are best friends that ended up being apart for the summer. As Danitra leaves town her friend Zuri says some hurtful things because she sad that is will be spending the whole summer by yourself. To Zuri’s surprise she finds a friend in a neighborhood girl and receives a letter from Danitra saying that she misses her friend. Throughout the summer the two girls write each other letters about their daily adventures of having a childhood summer, including block parties, Fourth of July, and hand ball games. By the end of the summer both girls reunite with more confidence in themselves and a stronger friendship.

Nikki Grimes book is a true tell of friendship that is told innocently through two young girls. Any age child will be able to understand the emotions that these girls go through throughout the summer, including anger, jealously, happiness, and excited. What is so unique about this book is that each page has a title just like any other poem would have, but they are weaved together to create a story. The choice of words Grimes uses on each page reflects the emotions that the characters are feeling. The block party has lines saying, “In a blink I became/ a hip-swinging/ head- bobbing/ foot-stomping/ fancy- dancing/ fool.” As you read those lines you want to start moving your head and snapping your fingers.

Besides the emotion behind each page the language used is wonderful. There are examples of similes, such as: “And the sky! I’ve never seen one so blue- black, like a thick overcoat.” I also enjoy how instead of simply stating something, Grimes choose such imaginative words. For example, instead of just saying she closed her eyes and went to bed, Grimes writes, “At midnight, I stretched my arms out to slip the darkness on.” There is also humor in the poem, “Now my mother taught me to use my head for more then a hat rack.”

The illustrations by Floyd Cooper also deserve praises for the use of colors to show emotions within the characters. The illustration that pertains to the poem “The Bad Good-Bye” is especially touching, showing the hurt on Zuri’s face as her best friend explains that she is leaving for the summer. I also liked how the illustrations are not perfectly crisp in terms of objects. It makes you look harder as if you are peering into the windows of these girls life. This book would be appealing to any age child as they would be able to look at the pictures and understand the story that is taking place.

*School Library Journal- “Gr 3-5-Grimes and Cooper return with another story told through poems about Danitra Brown and Zuri Jackson….All in all, however, Cooper's photo-realist artwork in soft hues against glowing backdrops is a lovely complement to the girls' many moods.”
*Publishers Weekly- “The final picture of Danitra and Zuri hugging is accompanied by a poem that's sure to ring true with other friends "A good hello/is knowing/when we're far apart,/at heart/we're still together,/and being glad/you're home again/cause that is ten times better/."
*Kirkus Reviews- “Grimes's poems read and flow well, and Cooper's paintings simply burst with energy and expressiveness. How nice for Zuri and for young readers that Danitra has returned.”

*Read the first book about Danitra Brown by Nikki Grimes. MEET DANITRA BROWN ISBN 9780688154714
*Follow up with other books about Danitra. DANITRA BROWN CLASS CLOWN ISBN 9780688172909
* Learn more about Nikki Grimes and her many awards she has received for her books, such as the Coretta Scott King Award Honor Book.
* Have students write a letter to one of their friends about their favorite summer activity.

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