Garvey's Choice

by Nikki Grimes (Author) Theodore Taylor III (Illustrator)

Reading Level: 4th − 5th Grade

Award-winning author Nikki Grimes's beloved novel in verse Garvey's Choice is now a graphic novel, imaginatively and dramatically illustrated by Little Shaq artist Theodore Taylor III.

Garvey's father has always wanted Garvey to be athletic, but Garvey is interested in astronomy, science fiction, reading--anything but sports. Feeling like a failure, he comforts himself with food. Garvey is kind, funny, smart, a loyal friend, and he is also overweight, teased by bullies, and lonely. When his only friend encourages him to join the school chorus, Garvey's life changes. The chorus finds a new soloist in Garvey, and through chorus, Garvey finds a way to accept himself and a way to finally reach his distant father--by speaking the language of music instead of the language of sports.

Garvey's Choice was a School Library Journal Best Book, a Kirkus Reviews Best Book, a Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award Honor Book, and a Paterson Prize for Books for Young People Honor Book. With Theodore Taylor III's full-color illustrations, this graphic novel edition is enthralling and inspiring.

Select format:

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review
An adaptation that expands the world of a captivating, much-loved character.

Horn Book Magazine

Starred Review
The verses are given a new visual life with excellent page designs and clever illustrations...An unusually effective use of the graphic novel format to bring poetry alive.

School Library Journal

Starred Review

Gr 4-9--Garvey wants to connect with his father, but feels as though his dad can't accept him for who he is; Dad wants Garvey to be an athlete like his sister, Angela. But Garvey, who is Black, loves astronomy and chess; he escapes into science fiction to make himself feel better. Garvey's dad and sister criticize his eating habits, adding to insecurities he feels as a result of bullying at school related to his weight. His best friend Joe, who is also Black, is caring and supportive; a new friend, Manny, who has albinism, helps Garvey learn to ignore bullying and "crank up the inside volume." Joe encourages Garvey to try out for chorus; singing boosts his confidence and gives him a way to connect with his dad, who used to be in a band. Some of Grimes's original tanka poems have been adjusted, but the novel in verse adapts beautifully to the graphic novel format, and Taylor's art emphasizes the imaginative, poignant, painful, and joyful aspects in turn. Starry night sky illustrations, with characters outlined in white, are striking. Taylor often shows Garvey regarding himself in a mirror, and readers can see how Garvey's feelings about his appearance change throughout. VERDICT This format will attract new readers to a poetic, powerful story of growth. Highly recommended.--Jenny Arch

Copyright 2023 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year
School Library Journal Best Book of the Year 

Grimes' award-winning tanka poem narrative about a boy struggling to find a place for himself in his family and the world is adapted in this captivating, visually impressive graphic, which looks at Garvey from a slightly different perspective. —Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

★ Grimes returns to the novel-in-verse format, creating voice, characters, and plot in a series of pithy tanka poems, a traditional Japanese form similar to haiku, but using five lines.... (w)ritten from Garvey's point of view, the succinct verses convey the narrative as well as his emotions with brevity, clarity, and finesse. —Booklist, starred review for Garvey's Choice

★ Grimes' newest follows a young black boy searching for his own unique voice, lost among his father's wishes and society's mischaracterizations. This compassionate, courageous, and hopeful novel explores the constraints placed on black male identity and the corresponding pains and struggles that follow when a young black boy must confront these realities both at home and in school.... This graceful novel risks stretching beyond easy, reductive constructions of black male coming-of-age stories and delivers a sincere, authentic story of resilience and finding one's voice. —Kirkus Reviews, starred review for Garvey's Choice

Grimes tells a big-hearted story of Garvey...(e)mploying the Japanese poetic form of tanka—five-line poems (or, here, stanzas) with haiku-like syllable counts—Grimes reveals Garvey's thoughts, feelings, and observations, the spare poetry a good vehicle for a young man's attempts to articulate the puzzle that is his life. —The Horn Book on Garvey's Choice

Nikki Grimes
New York Times bestselling author Nikki Grimes is the recipient of the 2020 ALAN Award for outstanding contributions to young adult literature, the 2017 Children's Literature Legacy Award, the 2016 Virginia Hamilton Literary Award, and the 2006 NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children. Her distinguished works include the much-honored books Garvey's Choice, ALA Notable book Southwest Sunrise, Coretta Scott King Award winner Bronx Masquerade, and five Coretta Scott King Author Honor books, Printz and Siebert Honor winner Ordinary Hazards, Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor One Last Word, its companion Legacy: Women Poets of the Harlem Renaissance, and NYT Bestseller Kamala Harris: Rooted in Justice. Creator of the popular Meet Danitra Brown, Make Way for Dyamonde Daniel, Bedtime for Sweet Creatures, and Off to See the Sea, Grimes lives in Corona, California. Visit
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Publication date
June 20, 2023
BISAC categories
JUV008000 - Juvenile Fiction | Comics & Graphic Novels | General
JUV057000 - Juvenile Fiction | Stories in Verse (see also Poetry)
JUV039230 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | Bullying
Library of Congress categories
Fathers and sons
Cartoons and comics
Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year
School Library Journal Best Book of the Year

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