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Grimes, Nikki
New York : Dial Books, 2002.
ISBN 0803725698

(4 booktalks)

Booktalk #1

Take one public high school in the Bronx,
An English teacher with a new idea,
Eighteen teenagers from eighteen very different backgrounds,
An open mike,
And poetry,
What do you have?
You'll have Bronx Masquerade by Nikki Grimes.
When school first started this year, we all pretty much thought we had each
other figured out:
You know, like that dude Tyrone is a bad boy (don't wanna mess with him).
The really tall girl has to be a ball player.
That kid they call "Jump Shot" is the dumb jock.
Those girls are preps.
Then there were the nerds and that one kid they call "Preach" is just a
Holy Roller.
But when Mr. Ward started Open Mike Fridays, and we started reading our
poems to the class, we started hearing what was buried in our hearts and
seeing past the skin color of the kids we were in class with.
*And little by little each week, we started revealing more and more of what
was really hiding behind the masks we'd been wearing.
*Note:  I do the entire booktalk holding a mask over my eyes, when I get to
this part, I slowly pull it away completely removing it at the end of this
sentence.  (Virginia L. Wright,

Booktalk #2

Tyrone Bittings is a bad dude.  He lives in the Bronx.  His dad was one of the few dads in the community that didnít run out on him after he was born.  His dad was killed in a drive by shooting.  Tyrone hates school.  All he wants to do is be a rapper.  No one seems to be getting though to Tyrone until Mr. Ward, his English teacher, allows a student to read his poem out loud to the class.  Next thing you know, students are skipping classes and sneaking into Mr. Wardís class to listen as Tyrone and 17 other students read poetry on open mike Fridays.  Their poetry.  Poems about basketball.  Poems about love.  Poems about friends.  Poems about death.  Poems about survival in the Bronx.  No one wants to discuss what life is really like until they begin to read their poetry, then they let down their guard and expose their innermost thoughts and feelings.  Nikki Grimesí Coretta Scott King Award winner, Bronx Masquerade.  (Melissa Bailey,, MLIS Program, University of South Carolina)

Booktalk #3

What in the world could writers seventy or eighty years ago during the Harlem Renaissance possibly have to say to teenagers today? Not much, Mr. Ward's English class assumes. Who writes poetry? Not us, Mr. Ward's English class assumes.
Aren't there strict rules about what poetry is and isn't? Very strict rules, they assume.
What person in their right mind would get up and share their poems with the class? No one we know, the students in Mr. Ward's class assume. Why would we risk showing our weaknesses and our true selves to the people in this class? No reason, they assume.  What could Hispanic, white, and black students from very different cultures and homes have in common? Very little, Mr. Ward's class assumes. Until ... Open Mike Days are introduced to the class. What begins as a day set aside once a month in this one class quickly becomes a weekly occurrence that has the students in Mr. Ward's English class learning more about themselves, each other, and their environment than they ever thought imaginable.

Prepared by: Cathy Garland  for South Carolina Young Adult Book Award Nominees 2005

Booktalk #4

Why do we need poetry? Sure, I have heard poetry is some powerful stuff, but in reality is it really that powerful? Well, actually it is.  Poetry can change oneís perspective. It can also change the way one feels towards oneself and towards the world.

                    When Mr. Ward started the Open Mike Friday, boy, was that a joke, until everyone started enjoying the spotlight and enjoying sharing his or her thoughts and feelings. Even Tyrone, an inner city teenager got into this poetry thing. It was a gamble at first. Imagine getting in front of a class and exposing your inner feelings. Man! Who would want to do that?  But as luck would have it, Open Mike Friday was a hit and eighteen teenagers actually created a close bond that would pull them together so close that no one could separate them.

                    Wow! Now that is poetry in action. Poetry is powerful!
(Angela A. Price,, USC MLIS Graduate Student)

SUBJECTS:     Poetry -- Fiction.
                        Identity -- Fiction.
                        Ethnicity -- Fiction.
                        African Americans -- Fiction.
                        High schools -- Fiction.
                        Schools -- Fiction.
                        Bronx (New York, N.Y.) -- Fiction.


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