Thursday, September 30, 2010

Dark Sons

The parallel stories between the biblical Ishmael, and a teenager named Sam are the focus of this novel by award winning author Nikki Grimes. Dark Sons, written in free verse, is a study of both biblical and modern times.

Ishmael, always struggling with his role in Abraham's family, tries to bond with his father. He finds it difficult to watch his mother live an unappreciated life of servitude. One of the poems that stood out to me is entitled Half and Half:

"Half Chaldean.
Half Egyptian.
Half slave.
Half free.
Half loved.
Half hated.
Half blessed.
All me."

Ishmael and his mother Hagar are exiled after Abraham's aged wife Sarah is able to conceive. Seemingly alone with no one to plead their cause, they must learn that God is their refuge, the only father that Ishmael can depend on.

Sam is an African - American teen whose father leaves his mother for a young Caucasian woman. Sam wrestles with both his love for his father, and his bitterness against him for leaving their family. When his father and his new wife have a child, Sam grows to love his brother, and realizes that with the Lord's help, he will make it through this terrible time in his life. Sam reads the story of Ishmael and realizes that they are very alike:

"We're brothers,
two dark sons ...
adopted sons of a Father
who hears. it's all good.
You made it
in the end
and so will I."

What I Like: Nikki Grimes intricately weaves her words into masterful free verse. The poetry in this book is packed with emotion, and reading it drew me in like I never imagined it would. I read it from start to finish in one sitting.

What I Dislike: There are several instances of profanity in this book. Sam also says at one point, "I order myself to stop imagining Dad and Rachel rubbing up on each other around the corner ..." I really think the book could have been just as effective without these things which would make me think twice before letting a young teen read this.

Overall Rating: Very Good

Age Appeal: The publisher says 12-14, but I think this book is more appropriate for older teens because of the adult issues covered.

Publisher Info: Zondervan, 2010; ISBN:0310721458 ; Paperback, 208 pages; $7.99.

Buy it Now at for $5.99
(After 10/19/2010)

OR Buy it at for $8.99.

Special Info: Parents should be aware that adult issues are covered in this book. There are also some instances of profanity and a sexual reference.

We've reviewed more books by Nikki Grimes. She also has a website which you may enjoy browsing.

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