Happy Nikki Grimes Day for Poetry Friday! Nikki’s books have won many well-deserved awards recently, but she hasn’t been able to receive these awards in person due to Covid-19. So Irene Latham, today’s Poetry Friday host, suggested that we hold a virtual celebration for Nikki.
As I thought about how to join this celebration, I turned to several of Nikki’s recent books on my shelf. Ordinary Hazards, One Last Word, and Words With Wings are all titles that I greatly enjoyed. But then I remembered my first introduction to Nikki’s books, by way of a Scholastic book order of my younger child. I can’t remember whether my daughter chose this book herself way back around 1998, or whether I selected it, but second grade was the year that she fell in love with poetry. And Meet Danitra Brown was (and is) a perfect book for a young poetry lover.
The poems in this book celebrate the friendship between two young girls. The narrator (Zuri Jackson) admires her best friend Danitra Brown for all the right reasons: Danitra’s comfortable being herself, she ignores the teasing of others, and she has dreams of accomplishing great things. Danitra’s a loyal friend who understands how to make Zuri feel better when facing a challenge. And Danitra stands out in a crowd, always dressed in purple.
We meet the narrator in the second poem of the book, playing jump rope (a scene that took me straight back to recess at Converse Street School.) After this poem she is rarely mentioned by name, keeping the focus on the friend she admires.
One of the final poems celebrates Danitra’s literary ambitions (the Nobel Prize, of course!) If you have a young writer in your life, I can’t think of a better role-model of a can-do kid. And her best friend believes in her–Zuri knows that Danitra has important stories to tell. If you have not read Meet Danitra Brown, I hope you’ll meet her soon. Here’s one more poem to whet your appetite, because all youngsters should dream big!