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Have you ever felt misunderstood?

Cover of Garvey's Choice: The Graph
A review of Garvey's Choice: The Graphic Novel by Nikki Grimes
Theodore Taylor III

Nikki Grimes' novel in verse, Garvey's Choice, is now available as a middle grade graphic novel. Garvey likes to read books, map the stars, and sing. His dad wants him to toss a football around and shoot hoops. When Garvey's father doesn't see him for who he truly is, Garvey eats his feelings. This leads to a vicious cycle with Garvey feeling bad about himself and his dad wanting him to exercise even more. Supportive friends and a mom who encourages reading and playing chess as ways to "exercise the mind" keep Garvey moving towards self-acceptance. As the story progresses, Garvey embraces who he is and starts to make decisions to take control of his life in a positive way.

Both books tell Garvey's story in verse, but the original is told completely in tanka, an ancient poetry form originally from Japan. About two-thirds of the poems remain intact in the graphic novel. Some are adjusted to accommodate the illustrations, speech bubbles, and slight changes in narrative, such as dialogue like "he said" and "she said."  The author includes a note about tanka, the modern form of tanka chosen for Garvey's Choice, and the focus on telling a story through poetry. It had been a few years since I read the original so I re-read it before reading the graphic novel so that it was fresh in my mind. I didn't notice any changes in the verse. The graphics actually made me pay attention to the words more closely. 

I love experiencing books in multiple formats and it was real treat seeing Garvey come to life on the pages in a different way. If you're looking for even more Garvey, Grimes has written a new novel in verse about Garvey and his experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. As the world goes into lockdown and people are getting sick, Garvey in the Dark shows readers how to find hope in difficult times.      

Aug 11, 2023