Legacy by Nikki Grimes is a must-read for older children and adults alike. While some of the poems might be a bit inaccessible for some readers, middle graders will benefit from this book of poetry with the support of a sensitive adult. I greatly enjoyed this read, featuring works from women of the Harlem Renaissance as well as golden shovel poems written by Nikki Grimes.

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The summary, from Amazon:

From Children’s Literature Legacy Award-winning author Nikki Grimes comes a feminist-forward new collection of poetry celebrating the little-known women poets of the Harlem Renaissance–paired with full-color, original art from today’s most talented female African-American illustrators.

For centuries, accomplished women–of all races–have fallen out of the historical records. The same is true for gifted, prolific, women poets of the Harlem Renaissance who are little known, especially as compared to their male counterparts.

In this poetry collection, bestselling author Nikki Grimes uses “The Golden Shovel” poetic method to create wholly original poems based on the works of these groundbreaking women-and to introduce readers to their work.

Each poem is paired with one-of-a-kind art from today’s most exciting female African-American illustrators: Vanessa Brantley-Newton, Cozbi A. Cabrera, Nina Crews, Pat Cummings, Laura Freeman, Jan Spivey Gilchrist, Ebony Glenn, April Harrison, Vashti Harrison, Ekua Holmes, Cathy Ann Johnson, Keisha Morris, Daria Peoples-Riley, Andrea Pippins, Erin Robinson, Shadra Strickland, Nicole Tadgell, and Elizabeth Zunon.

Legacy also includes a foreword, an introduction to the history of the Harlem Renaissance, author’s note, and poet biographies, which make this a wonderful resource and a book to cherish.

Buy Legacy here.

What is a golden shovel poem? Nikki Grimes introduced me to this style of poem in the forward to Legacy. A golden shovel poem pays homage to another poem. In it, the poet selects a few lines or word from another poem. Then, they use each of these words as the last word in the lines of their poem. Read more about this type of poem and how it was created in this Writer’s Digest post.

Nikki Grimes selected poems written by women in the Harlem Renaissance. As Grimes suspects in the forward, I was only familiar with male Harlem Renaissance poets. I was amazed by some of these poems, broken down into categories of Heritage, Earth Mother, and Taking Notice. These poems spoke to the joy and pain of the times these women lived in as well as of the world in general. I was struck by how each poem was either timeless or also reflected our current world.

After each poem, Grimes shares her golden shovel poem. Nikki’s poems are empowering and relatable, including lines just as memorable as those from the poets she paid homage to. Finally, each set of poems has an accompanying piece of art from notable Black women in illustration, such as one of my favorites, Ekua Holmes. The backmatter provides poet biographies and artist biographies.

This is a very powerful read for both children and adults. I do recommend that children read this one with a sensitive adult nearby. Some of the Harlem Renaissance poems might require support and insight for some readers, and there is some violent graphic content in one or two of the poems.

Overall, this was a 5 star read for me and I highly recommend it to anyone.

Find out more about how I rate books here.

Legacy: Women Poets of the Harlem RenaissanceLegacy: Women Poets of the Harlem Renaissance by Nikki Grimes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a powerful read. Though this is for children, adults will get just as much from it. Some of the poems might be less accessible for younger readers stylistically, and one or two involve graphic violence, but I think with a sensitive adult facilitating, this is a must-read. Grimes introduces the golden shovel style of poem in her works, which is both interesting and fun – and bonus: makes this one great for classroom use.

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Book Club Questions

  1. What was your favorite poem in this book and why?
  2. Did you have a favorite poem pairing?
  3. Try your hand at your own golden shovel poem using any of the poems in this book.
  4. What was your favorite piece of art in this poem and why?
  5. Why do you think Nikki Grimes chose to feature these specific poems using the golden shovel poem style?

Interested? Buy Legacy.
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