Review: Words with Wings

+-+725001053_70Title: Words With Wings

Author: Nikki Grimes

Date: Wordsong; 2013

Main Character: Gabriella/Gabby

I am always amazed at how books I read one after the other share similar themes, plots or characters.

On the first leg of my trip to Amarillo, TX last week, I decided it was time to dive into Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard. Bachelard (1884-1962) was a European philosopher whose research was devoted to the domain of intimacy. I’ve only completed the first chapter of the book so far, but in this chapter he describes our relationship to houses both in dreams and daydreams and how the presence of a house in daydreams, literature or poetry through our intimate connection with them, provides a sense of protection. While dreams have been studied, daydreams are more difficult to capture and analyze but Gaston says still of significance.

“Poetry comes naturally from a daydream”.

He describes daydreams as creative and full of life. One who is bored to tears has no daydreams! “And the poetic daydream, which creates symbols, confers upon our intimate moments an activity that is polysymbolic”.

And, on the next flight, I happened to pick up Words With Wings by Nikki Grimes.

Words With Wings is the story of Gabriella (Gabby) who is adjusting not so much to her parent’s separation and to a new school as to her ability to constantly daydream. Gabby admits her mother cursed her from the beginning in naming her after a winged creature, the Angel Gabriel. How then could words not manage to have wings for her?

The first daydream Gabby shares takes he from her breaking dishes to hide from the noise of her parent’s arguing to the safe corner of her grandmother’s house. She goes back to the house of her childhood before feeling enough security to take us through more of her daydreams, all of which are ignited by a single word. Like most children, Gabriella doesn’t quite realize the power in her gifts but readers recognize the beauty of her daydreams and the comfort then provide her.

Nikki Grimes is a writer whose words have wings. She’s one of the few who write in open verse that actually manages to say more with fewer words.

Mine: Pretend.

Mom’s: Practical.

All we have in common

is the letter P.

In her new school, Gabby has this new teacher, Mr. Spicer (based on the real life Ed Spicer) who understands children and nurtures creativity. He’s that elementary teacher we’d want all our children to have.

I enjoyed how Grimes honored daydreaming, something that most people other than Bacheland, take very much for granted. I’d love to have a poster of the cover of this book to remind me to take my 15 minutes a day to sort through my daydreams.

Nikki Grimes also wrote Bronx Masquerade, Jazmin’s Notebook, The Road to Paris and other over 40 other books. She’s won the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Works and the Coretta Scott King Award. Words With Wings is a 2014 ALA/ALSC Notable Children’s Book; Coretta Scott King Author Honor Book and a Junior Library Guild selection. The book made the Kirkus Reviews Best Books of 2013 list; Pennsylvania Keystone to Reading Elementary Book Award Finalist list and the Nerdy Book Club finalist list.


themes: writing; daydreams; school; friendship


Bachelard, Gaston, and M Jolas. The Poetics of Space. Boston: Beacon Press, 1994. Print.

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