Wednesday, October 29, 2014

"... a gem waiting to be discovered ..."

Make Way for Dyamonde Daniel by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie. G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2009, $10.99. Highly recommended for ages 7-10.

“Dyamonde Daniel was a gem waiting to be discovered … so what if she had wild-crazy hair and was skinnier than half a toothpick (p. 1)?"

Dyamonde Daniel’s boundless spirit cannot be quelched despite some recent setbacks. Her parents’ have divorce, she and her mother have moved to a an unfamiliar neighborhood. Their new apartment only has one bedroom, so Dyamonde sleeps on the couch. She misses her best friend and still feels like an outsider at her new school. How come she doesn't have a new best friend?

So Dyamonde is sympathetic to new student Reed “Free” Freeman when he enters her 3rd grade class after the start of school.  However, despite her friendly overtures, he’s grumpy and rude. Finally, taking her teacher’s advice, she decides to ask him why he’s so mad. Turns out that, like her, he’s got some pretty big family problems to deal with. Dyamonde can certainly understand, and, supported by her positive attitude, Free opens up to a friendship which brings comfort to both.

Smart, spunky, and determined, Dyamonde possesses an awareness and confidence that most children her age (and even some adults) don't have. Her willingness to confront problems creatively and not bow to peer pressure make her a wonderful role model for young students dealing with interpersonal relationships.

This is the first in a series by the talented and prolific Nikki Grimes. The author has written a highly readable and satisfying story that feels realistic, but not gritty and sends an upbeat message without being too preachy or too "heavy."  R. Gregory Christie’s cubist-like illustrations, sprinkled throughout the 80 page book, lend themselves well to the urban New York setting, but this is a story that is easily relatable to all young readers. Other titles in the series include Rich, which looks at issues surrounding poverty and wealth when Dyamonde and Free find out that a classmate lives in a homeless shelter. In Halfway to Perfect Dyamonde helps a friend address body image when other classmates make fun of her weight.

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