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Garvey’s Choice (The Graphic Novel) : A Librarian’s Perspective Review

I haven’t read the original Garvey’s Choice novel by Nikki Grimes, but I loved the graphic novel! The cover and illustrations are eye-catching and will make this a popular choice for middle grade readers.

AUTHOR: Nikki Grimes
ILLUSTRATOR: Theodore Taylor III
SERIES: none
PUBLISHER: Wordsong
PUBLICATION DATE: June 6, 2023
PAGES: 144
GENRE: graphic novel, realistic fiction
SETTING: Garvey’s house and middle school
GIVE IT TO: upper-ES, MS

SUMMARY OF GARVEY’S CHOICE

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.

THE SHORT VERSION

Cute! Love the graphics and the protagonist.

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT GARVEY’S CHOICE

I have not read the original Garvey’s Choice, but this graphic novel makes me want to read it. As in the original book, the text of this graphic novel is in a tanka poem format. This format is explained in the notes at the end, but it is similar to haiku except with 5 lines.

I loved Garvey himself! We need a lot more graphic novels featuring African American middle schoolers. I love that Garvey feels so real – he’s overweight, sad, and eats his feelings. It’s so important that readers see themselves in the books they read, and I think many middle schoolers will identify with Garvey.

I love the honest family dynamics. Garvey’s dad loves him, but he doesn’t understand Garvey. He wants Garvey to play sports and lose weight and basically be someone else entirely. Garvey loves music and singing, and thankfully, that’s how he and his dad bond in the end.

Older sister Angela also loves Garvey, but she doesn’t realize her “teasing” words about his weight are hurtful. I love that once Garvey tells her this, Angela stops the words immediately. This family is totally normal! So many families have these kinds of dynamics, and it’s important that family members speak up and respect each others’ wishes. As happens in this story.

The Luthur Vandross references may cause students to look up Vandross’s music and hook a new generation of fans.

In the end notes, I liked the short section about challenges in creating a graphic novel but keeping the tanka poem format. Grimes talks about how part of the original tanka poems included “he said” or “she said” as part of the poem. But in the graphic novel, those lines are not necessary because the illustrations show who is speaking. So she had to tweak the poems to fit the format without including the speaker’s name.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE ABOUT GARVEY’S CHOICE

Garvey doesn’t look very overweight in the illustrations. I haven’t read the original material, so maybe he is supposed to be just a little overweight?

DIVERSITY

Garvey and his friends are in middle school. Nearly all major characters, including Garvey, are Black. One new friend is albino.

ARTWORK/ILLUSTRATIONS

Color palatte is browns, blues, and greens. Front cover is eye-catching and will appeal to middle grade students.

Screenshot of Garvey's Choice Graphic Novel by Nikki Grimes.

THEMES

  • weight issues, fat shaming, being oneself, parental disapproval, pursuing one’s own interests, bullying, friendship, making new friends, siblings

LIBRARIANS WILL WANT TO KNOW

  • Would adults like this book? YES, adults who like middle grade graphic novels will enjoy Garvey’s Choice. Some adults may identify with Garvey when they were in middle school themselves.
  • Would I buy this for my high school library? NO; Garvey is a middle schooler. This is too young for high school.
  • Would I buy this for my middle school library? YES; no reservations for middle school libraries.
  • Would I buy this for my elementary school library? YES; no reservation for upper-elementary (Grades 4-5).

MATURE CONTENT

No content concerns for elementary or middle school libraries.

  • Language: none
  • Sexuality: none
  • Violence: peers at school name-calling, sibling “teasing” about weight
  • Drugs/Alcohol: none
  • Other: none

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