Thursday, March 3, 2016

LS 5603 20 Review: Bronx Masquerade by Nikki Grimes

Bronx Masquerade
by Nikki Grimes

Grimes, Nikki, Bronx Masquerade. New York: Dial Books, 2002. ISBN 9780142501894

Plot Summary: The voices and stories of eighteen urban teenagers come together to create this book that is a mix of narrative and verse chapters. The students all share the same teacher, where they complete a poetry unit and do their own open mike poetry. The poetry included is in the form of slam, and discusses a plethora of tough subjects while the students learn about themselves, their lives, and the tough things that they are dealing with at a young age.

Critical Analysis: The rhythm of this novel changes a great deal as it does switch back and forth between narrative and verse. The narrative portion is set up similar to other narrative novels. There is dialogue and indented paragraphs. There is punctuation as it should be, and follows a regular story format of giving the lives and emotions of the characters. In this case, it is eighteen different, interconnected characters.

The poetry pieces of the novel are much more varied in their rhythm and structure. A lot of this has to do with the fact that there are so many different characters, and the novel reads as each teenager writing their own piece of poetry. Therefore, it varies based on their personality. One of my favorite poems in the book structurally is "Zorro" by Raul Ramirez (pg. 22). In it, Raul is explaining why people call him Zorro, and the poem is written in lines that make out a large letter "z." It certainly adds a lot of character to the page. Other than that, the poems also vary in their overall length as well as line length depending on the individual and the topic being discussed.

The rhyming of the poems is something that varies as well, and I find that I do like this as I am not the biggest fan of my poetry rhyming. While it adds to some of the poems by having the last lines rhyme, I also believe that it takes away from some of them. I feel that some words are simply there because they rhyme, and do not add the greatest meaning to the poem, where another word may have been more sufficient. Still, it kept the poetry quick and interesting.

The language and emotion are two things that this novel has an abundance of. The language was different for every single character, which is quite the feat when there are eighteen of them. I love how Grimes made them stand apart, and by the end of the book it is possible to tell which character is reading their poetry without having to look for their name. The dialect was specific to urban teenagers as well, and I do appreciate Grimes using a lot of the natural lingo that they would use in the same situation.

As far as emotions go, this novel packed a punch with all of the teenagers dealing with difficult things in their young lives. While it would be easy to get mixed up and lost in the emotions and feelings of having so many characters, that is not something that occurs. Instead, it is easy to relate and feel sympathy for each one of them for different reasons. It is also natural emotion between the characters as they begin to understand each other and realize they are not who they believed each other to be. 

Review Excerpts: 

From School Library Journal"As always, Grimes gives young people exactly what they're looking for—real characters who show them they are not alone."

From Booklist"Readers will enjoy the lively, smart voices that talk bravely, about real issues and secret fears.  A fantastic choice."


I think that this would be a wonderful book to pair with other Nikki Grimes books. It could be an author study where students could look into the craft of a specific writer, and if they follow this craft through all of their books.

This would be a wonderful book for a literature circle in middle school as I do believe that there are a lot of characters in the book that many students that age could relate to, and they could see a positive example of accepting others as they are.

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