Oh, brother!

Nikki Grimes

Book - 2008

Xavier is unhappy when his mother remarries and he suddenly has a new stepbrother, as well as a stepfather, in his home.

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Location Call Number   Status
Children's Room jE/Grimes Withdrawn
Picture books
New York : Greenwillow Books c2008.
1st ed
Physical Description
unpaged : col. ill. ; 29 cm
Main Author
Nikki Grimes (-)
Other Authors
Mike Benny, 1964- (illustrator)
Review by Booklist Review

The picture-book story of Xavier and his new, younger stepbrother, Chris, is told in a series of easily accessible first-person poems that illustrate the difficulties of blending a family. Grimes' young narrator (who appears to be Hispanic) is jealous of Chris, seeing him as the Mr. Perfect who is trying to usurp Xavier's rightful place in his mother's affection. The truth is more complex: Unless I'm perfect,' whispers Chris, / my dad might go away. / Normal wasn't good enough / to make my mama stay.' The poems vary slightly in consistency (the voice is sometimes too old, and the rhyme scheme is occasionally forced to make the point), but overall, the poetic vignettes tell an affecting story. And while the gouache illustrations do not always accurately reflect the text, they have a comforting solidity. The opaque nature of the medium adds to the substantive feel of the images, and most compositions, whether single or full spread, are dominated by the expressive faces of the characters. This succinct, accessible look at the process of becoming brothers touches on universal themes.--Del Negro, Janice Copyright 2007 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission. Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Snappy language and varied rhyme schemes energize Grimes's (Talkin' About Bessie) verses describing step-sibling rivalry in a newly blended, interracial family. After his mom's wedding, Xavier bemoans his circumstances: "Everyone in this house/ is a step, now./ Stepmom./ Stepdad... / In my mind,/ I turn them into steps/ I can climb./ And when I reach/ the top,/ I rule." Benny (America's White Table) intersperses surreal illustrations with more realistic scenes; those that vivify Xavier's imaginary life are more compelling (instead of showing steps, he displays the rest of the family as figures at Mount Rushmore, with the life-size narrator scaling the representation of his stepfather). Throughout, the illustrator favors outsize characters with enormous eyes and mouths, exaggerating Xavier's shifting emotions (and taking advantage of the book's large trim size). The stylized characters also complement the humor and the deft poetic shifts as Grimes traces Xavier's tumultuous route to friendship with his new stepbrother, Chris ("I'm sick of Mr. Perfect!/ Just be a normal kid!" he explodes, only to be moved by Chris's response: " `Unless I'm perfect,' whispers Chris,/ `my dad might go away./ Normal wasn't good enough/ to make my mama stay' "). Although the story arc is predictable (guess who has a baby?), the art and poems capture and memorably convey a range of emotions. Ages 5-10. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved Review by School Library Journal Review

K-Gr 5-In this collection of poems, Grimes takes on the complicated challenges that blended families face. Xavier, a Latino boy who has lived alone with his mother for some time, voices his concerns as a new man and his son come into their lives. The new brother, an African American, is a competitor and is perfect to boot. Xavier resists liking the younger boy and actively resents his attempts at gaining his mother's affections. It isn't until later when Xavier confronts him that Chris admits that he fears that being less than perfect might make his father abandon him as his mother did. This admission softens Xavier as he realizes that Chris is as insecure as he is. The story arc is somewhat predictable and the plot neatly tied up at the end. Still, this is an important topic and the blending of a Latino and an African-American family is refreshing. Benny's artwork is bold and literal, which supports the metaphors used in the poetry.-Joan Kindig, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. Review by Horn Book Review

In a series of short rhyming poems, Xavier expresses concerns about his new stepbrother. Moving from resentment to hostility to acceptance and love, Xavier's feelings will resonate with many readers. The gouache paintings convey the range of the singsong verses' moods. (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. Review by Kirkus Book Review

When his mother remarries, a young boy resents his new stepbrother until he discovers they have a lot in common. Xavier feels displaced when he has to share his room and his mother with his new stepbrother Chris. Xavier avoids Chris who seems too good to be true. Every night Chris clears the table, loads the dishwasher, finishes his homework and goes to bed early. Worried that "perfect as a clock" Chris is deliberately trying to make him look bad, Xavier warns Chris he's "sick of Mr. Perfect." But when a tearful Chris explains he has to be perfect so his dad won't leave him like his mama did, Xavier realizes Chris is just as scared as he is. Gradually Xavier learns he and Chris have much to share including a new baby sister. Twenty poems laced with emotion chronicle Xavier's journey from anger to acceptance, while Benny's strong gouache illustrations capture his emotional struggle to embrace his new hermano and their new family. Ideal for kids coping with new step-siblings. (Picture book. 5-10) Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.