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Book Review

Publisher's Note:

In her own voice, acclaimed author and poet Nikki Grimes explores the truth of a harrowing childhood in a compelling and moving memoir in verse. Growing up with a mother suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and a mostly absent father, Nikki Grimes found herself terrorized by babysitters, shunted from foster family to foster family, and preyed upon by those she trusted. At the age of six, she poured her pain onto a piece of paper late one night - and discovered the magic and impact of writing. For many years, Nikki's notebooks were her most enduing companions. In this accessible and inspiring memoir that will resonate with young readers and adults alike, Nikki shows how the power of those words helped her conquer the hazards - ordinary and extraordinary - of her life.…

Overall Book Review:

Ordinary Hazards is not an ordinary book at all.  The memoir of author Nikki Grimes through verse is a raw and emotional journey through her past during the 1960’s.  While not written in traditional narrative format, it provides a unique look into her life and the shaping of her written works.

First, don’t think of this as a book of poetry.  Verse tends to be a turnoff for some, but this book reads more like a narrative.  The prose is rhythmic, but not written like a limerick.  Don’t expect rhymes at the end of every line or neat iambic pentameter.

While some portions of the book are raw in their emotions and have tough subject matter, overall the book is one of light and hope.  It is the story of a woman who has faced incredible hardships but has found joy, purpose and success despite her upbringing.  Although set in 1960’s New York, especially areas like Harlem and Brooklyn, the reader won’t feel out of place.  The descriptions of setting offer a glimpse into another era much different than our own.

Overall this is a beautifully written book.  While more appropriate for older audiences due to some subject matter, it reads easily, and the language is straightforward and simple.  A unique way to approach a memoir and offer a glimpse into one’s private life.

Review of an Advance Reading Copy

This book was sent to Compass Book Ratings for review by Wordsong

Content Analysis:

Profanity/Language:  13 religious exclamations; 16 mild obscenities; 4 derogatory names; 3 scatological words; 3 anatomical terms.  

Violence and Gore:  Reference to child abuse; iron smacked to head; locked in a closet; verbal threat; recall of whipping; bike crash with minor injuries; slap to face; shoved against shelf; burned with cigarette; recall of man who was beaten; girls attack another resulting in bloody cut; man pushes woman down flight of stairs; threat with a butcher knife; fist fight; man dies from car accident injuries.

Sex and Nudity:  Man “grinds” on woman; reference to man’s erection; man watches girl; man purposefully brushes against girl in hallways; man sexually assaults girl (oral sex).

Mature Subject Matter:

Racial and socioeconomic conflict; death; war; divorce/separation; unemployment; rape; mental disorders; gambling; abandonment; child abuse; spousal abuse; addictions.

Alcohol / Drug Use:

Adults drink; underage smoking.

Overall Book Rating

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About the Reviewer

I am a full-time mom, full-time wife, and overtime reader. I have been an avid reader for as long as anyone can remember. It must run in the family because both my mother and grandmother are also voracious readers and often pass books back and forth. Almost any genre can spark my interest, but I often go in streaks, reading a bunch of books from one genre, then switching to another for a while and back again.