Make Way for Dyamonde Daniel by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie, caught my eye in the “Beginning Chapter Books” section at the library.
Third-grader Dyamonde Daniel has been in her new school for 3 weeks and still doesn’t have a best friend. When her parents got divorced, she had to move to a new neighborhood with her mom and leave her old best friend behind. Luckily, an even newer kid has just joined her class…and even though he’s grumpy and unfriendly, Dyamonde decides to follow her teacher’s advice and ask Free why he’s so mad all the time.
When she sits with him at lunch, the other kids stare, but that doesn’t stop Dyamonde.
“Wow,” said Free. “You’re amazing.”
“You really don’t care what people think.”
“About sitting with me. About anything.”
“Why should I?” asked Dyamonde. “I know what I think, and that’s enough” (55).
The dialogue is believable and the urban setting is laid down in a central but unobtrusive manner; almost any child will be able to identify with Dyamonde’s story. Christie’s blocky, contemporary illustrations reflect the setting well.
Dyamonde gives Free a lot to think about, and by the end of the book he’s much less grouchy and even decides to read out loud at school, something he’s never wanted to do before – and surprises everyone when he turns out to be one of the best readers in the class!
Although I haven’t extensively read in this genre, there don’t seem to be many early chapter books about African-Americans, so I think this book fills an important need – I believe that everyone should be able to find characters like themselves in the books they read. It was a quick but thought-provoking read, and since it’s supposed to be the first book in a series, I look forward to the next!