Garvey’s Choice

GARVEYS w seal

Garvey’s Choice
by Nikki Grimes

Readers Theater

Book Trailer

Author Interview

Related Activities & Resources:

Informational Resources:

Author Information:

Author website:

Author biography:

Video interview with Nikki Grimes Segment 1 of 8 (:58):

Author blog:

Activities & Resources:


Educator Guide:


Astronomy for kids:

Astronomy facts, games, and fun:

Have students create their own science fiction story. Then, using spare odds and ends from your makerspace station, have students design and create an alien or character from their story.


How to play chess:

Video explaining chess (9:41):

Have a chess tournament.


How to make Pasta Primavera with Chef Eliana:

Have students plan out a meal that Manny could cook to share with Garvey. Include a list of ingredients, measurements, and instructions.

Have students create a submission video to be a contestant on Master Chef Jr. Requirements:


Discuss the requirements for traditional Tanka poetry. Have students try their hand at writing their own poem using this style.

Book spine poetry. Stack books with the spine facing out. Have students re-arrange the books to create a poem using the titles of the books on the spines.

Create a table with two columns; one for Tanka with rhyme and one for Tanka without rhyme. Have students find five examples of each from the book and write under each column heading.


Rhythm games to experience chorus activities like Garvey did:

Have students participate in a karaoke contest.

Have students participate in a talent show. Include singing, dancing, instruments, etc.

MakerSpace Activities:

Have a selection of objects from nature (i.e., bird feathers, leaves, rocks, dirt, grass, flowers). Have each student or a group of students select one of the objects. Have students write down descriptions of the object. Then, using the descriptions, have students write a poem using the tanka format of 31 syllables in five lines with the pattern of 5-7-5-7-7.

Using the poem from the above lesson, have students create a visual performance of the poem and record using a device.

Have students create a public service announcement using either posters, videos, etc. explaining the importance of the fine arts to society.

Write and record a pep talk to send to Garvey before his big solo performance.

Discussion Questions:

Garvey’s Choice is written in tanka verse. What things would Nikki Grimes have to consider to make Garvey’s story fit into the format of this type of poetry?

Why do you think the author chose this style of poetry to tell Garvey’s story?

How would you suggest Garvey handle his differences with his father?

Why do you think Garvey’s father feels the way he does about Garvey?

Garvey’s sister Angie nicknamed him “Chunk”. How would you handle the situation to make her stop?

In the story, Garvey is brought to tears listening to the song, “Dance with my father”. Which song on the radio makes you feel emotional? Why?

What could Garvey’s mom have done better to fix the relationship between Garvey and his father?

In the story, Garvey’s mother teaches him to play chess. If you could learn to play any game, what would it be? Why?

What would you do if your friend was afraid to try out for a club?

What makes Joe a good friend to Garvey? Explain.

Do you think Garvey’s sister, Angie, will stop calling Garvey “Chunk”? Why?

Why does Garvey’s father react to Garvey’s performance the way he does?

Will Garvey and his father be able to create a better relationship than they have had? What makes you think this?

How did you handle making a difficult choice in your life?

How do Garvey and Joe (and Manny) keep their friendship strong?

Why are friendships so important?

How do the members of your family influence who you are? How do your friends influence who you are?

How does Garvey’s family and friends shape him? How does he shape them?

How would you and your friends handle a situation in which someone was being bullied?

Why do you think music and singing are so important to Garvey?

Book Talk Teasers:

Fairfax County Public Schools Librarians discuss Garvey’s Choice (1:07):

Read the Readers Theater.

Read Alikes:


Palacio, R.J. Auggie & me: three Wonder stories. These stories are an extra peek at Auggie, a boy born with extreme facial abnormalities, before he started at Beecher Prep and during his first year there. Readers get to see him through the eyes of Julian, the bully; Christopher, Auggie’s oldest friend; and Charlotte, Auggie’s new friend at school. (NoveList).

Russell, Rachel Renee. Locker hero. Questioning his resolve to attend public school after being homeschooled when he is targeted by a bully, Max aspires to become like his favorite comic book heroes and finds an unexpected opportunity to be the hero his middle school needs. (NoveList).

Patterson, James. I even funnier. While on a mission to win the Planet’s Funniest Kid Comic regional competition, New York middle schooler Jamie Grimm copes with rival comics and bullies, a buddy in trouble, and a sudden family emergency, all with a sense of humor and a loyal group of friends. (NoveList).


Sayre, Justin. Husky. Twelve-year-old Davis is about to start high school as the husky kid, while his best friend, Sofie, does very little to help with his self confidence, so he hides in his obsession with opera. (NoveList).

Reynolds, Jason. Ghost. Ghost, a naturally talented runner and troublemaker, is recruited for an elite middle school track team. He must stay on track, literally and figuratively, to reach his full potential. (NoveList).

Family Issues

Alexander, Kwame. The crossover: a basketball novel. Fourteen-year-old twin basketball stars Josh and Jordan wrestle with highs and lows on and off the court as their father ignores his declining health. (NoveList).

Graff, Lisa. Absolutely almost. Ten-year-old Albie has never been the smartest, tallest, best at gym, greatest artist, or most musical in his class, as his parents keep reminding him, but new nanny Calista helps him uncover his strengths and take pride in himself. (NoveList).

Lai, Thanhha. Inside out & back again. Through a series of poems, a young girl chronicles the life-changing year of 1975, when she, her mother, and her brothers leave Vietnam and resettle in Alabama. (NoveList).

Winston, Sherri. The sweetest sound. Shy ten-year-old Cadence grapples with an overprotective father, a mother who’s skipped town to pursue stardom, and what to do when a recording of her amazing voice leaks before she’s ready to share it with the world. (NoveList).


Grimes, Nikki.  Garvey’s Choice.  Wordsong, and Imprint of Boyds Mills Press, 2016. School Library Journal (July 1, 2016)

Gr 4-8-Grimes’s latest is a sensitively written middle grade novel in verse that takes its syllable count from Japanese tanka. Garvey is an overweight boy who is teased at school and whose father constantly prods him to be more like his athletic older sister, Angie. But Garvey has a best friend (Joe), an open heart (which leads him to a new friend, Manny), and, as readers learn midway through the book, a talent for singing, which lands him a coveted solo in the school’s chorus concert. Through that talent, Garvey finds a way to connect with his father and combat his bullies’ rude remarks with a newfound strength of purpose. Those who thought Planet Middle School’s Joylin was a remarkably lifelike portrait of an angsty yet kind adolescent will fall hard for Garvey, a tender, sincere boy who dislikes athletics. Grimes writes about adolescent friendships in a way that feels deeply human. VERDICT A short, sweet, satisfying novel in verse that educators and readers alike will love.-Abigail Garnett, Brooklyn Public Library © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.  Reprinted with permission from School Library Journal , 2016.

Grimes, Nikki.  Garvey’s Choice.  Wordsong, and Imprint of Boyds Mills Press, 2016.         Booklist starred (June 1, 2016 (Vol. 112, No. 19)
Grades 4-6. Garvey is tired of his father’s attempts to turn him into something he’s not: an athlete. Avoiding outdoor activities, he comforts himself with food and music. Inevitably, he gains weight, but it isn’t the physical discomfort of climbing stairs at school that bothers him—it’s the teasing about his size. His best friend encourages him to join the school chorus, where he learns, in addition to music, how to deal with name-calling, how to use his exceptional tenor voice, and, ultimately, how to connect with his father through a genuine shared interest. Garvey’s growing confidence gives him a different perspective and even leads him to take up running. A Coretta Scott King Author Award winner and the recipient of the 2016 Virginia Hamilton Literary Award, Grimes returns to the novel in verse format, creating voice, characters, and plot in a series of pithy tanka poems, a traditional Japanese form similar to haiku but using five lines. While the story ends on a hopeful note, Grimes is clear that it takes work and time, as well as insight and determination, to create real change. Written from Garvey’s point of view, the succinct verses convey the narrative as well as his emotions with brevity, clarity, and finesse. Used with the permission of Booklist