In Celebration of Nikki Grimes and Danitra Brown!

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!

Floyd Cooper’s illustrations paint Danitra and Zuri’s friendship with joy.
Lucky me! I met Nikki at a party that Ed Spicer gave in honor of her visit to Michigan in 2017.

16 thoughts on “In Celebration of Nikki Grimes and Danitra Brown!

  1. Buffy, I was on your Facebook page and found this post that somehow I skipped over a few weeks ago. I was drawn to Leslie Helakoski in your picture. She has now moved to Lafayette, LA, and I’ve become friends with her through our local SCBWI. Her mother dances, so I met her mother before at venues where we used to go dancing (and hopefully will again) I love how our worlds are connected in different ways.

    1. Louisiana’s gain and Michigan’s loss! I miss Leslie–she and I were part of a group that met together to write once or twice a month. And somehow I knew that she knew you–maybe she mentioned when your first grandbaby was born, because his name is similar to a grand-nephew of hers?

  2. I love hearing about the impact this book had on your daughter! Sounds like one I need to add to my to-buy list!

  3. Meet Danitra Brown (you really oughta–she’s splendiferous) is a book I loved sharing in first grade before I even met Nikki in person. It is great for point of view lessons and for just plain language fun. I love the picture too!

  4. Wonderful you, dear Buffy for celebrating Nikki Grimes with her picture poetry book characters Zuri & Danitra. There are many of hers on my To Read list, but after WORDS WITH WINGS, the Danitra books, especially MEET, speak so deeply to me of her many titles. (And although I’ve introduced Danitra to First Grade as a volunteer reader) I pull nourishment from Zuri & Danitra, too.

    So fabulous for your legendary Ed Spicer+NikkiGrimes moment.
    I love seeing the smiles & feeling the warms of that meeting.

    This is such a welcome joyful Poetry Friday, like a moveable feast.

  5. Thanks so much for spotlighting Danitra Brown, Buffy! Haven’t read it yet, and you’ve really whetted my appetite for more! Thanks, too, for sharing that great photo!

  6. I know you mentioned 2nd grade, but this is a book I also recommended to some of my middle school students, those especially loving to write. Its themes of being a good friend also make the book another go-to of Nikki’s. I love your picture, too. What a good memory that is, Buffy.

  7. Buffy, thanks for the introduction to a book I had not read before, it sounds like one that children would gravitate towards with its lyrical quality and theme of friendship. I will look for it. also, thanks for sharing the photo of smiling poets.

  8. I haven’t yet met Danitra, so thank you for this introduction, Buffy! And I know how special those books are that we share with our children. Love the pic, too, of all you word-and-Nikki-loving folks! Thank you for sharing. xo

  9. Lucky you! Love that photo of you at the end of your post. To be surrounded by poets celebrating Nikki Grimes. I’m loving the Poetry Friday posts today. Several of us have begun with the first Nikki Grimes book that entered our world. Her books did change us, shape us…even though the book was for our children. That’s the beauty of a great kidlit writer. They write for kids but speak to adults. Thanks for this beautiful, celebratory post.

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