Garvey’s Choice

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Citation:  Grimes, N. (2016). Garvey’s Choice. Honesdale, PA: Wordsong.

Overall Review:  Garvey’s Choice is an examination of a troubled parent-child relationship that will resonate with almost any reader on some level. Garvey is drawn to the arts and sci fi and just wants to be free to be himself without the pressure from his father to participate in sports, the teasing from his sister and the kids at school, and the pressure he puts on himself to be who others want him to be. When he finally finds something to connect with his father, everything turns around with the help of his two closest friends and their influence on his self-esteem.

This novel in verse is an excellent way to encourage young, struggling readers or those who are averse to poetry because it is a quick read with which they will find some emotional connection. Its themes of bullying and the pressure one’s peers put on them to fit in will strike a cord with everyone, regardless of their social standing, body image issues, or interests. The story will engage them and keep them reading until the end, and the poetic form provides opportunity for greater understanding and insight into Garvey’s emotions.

The various poems in this novel work together to piece together the story of Garvey’s struggle. Some are more apt to stand alone than others that contribute more to the plot, but they are all equally important for the insight they provide to the story. Each poem includes a title that is listed in the table of contents at the beginning of the book for easy location to specific poems that spoke to the reader or for keeping one’s place. The end of the book also includes an author’s note about the poetic form used in this novel—Tanka. She mentions that Tanka typically focuses on mood, and that style is definitely displayed throughout the novel. We are treated to in-depth analysis of Garvey’s moods and how they vary when his father is around, when he meets a new friend, when he is teased at school, and when he finally finds his passion in choir.

Spotlight Poem:  “Sci Fi Novel”
“On page 59,
I meet two red Martian Trills
and feel a sweet chill
ripple through me, till Dad says,
“Football would do you better.”

Where did he come from?
The sudden slap of words sends
my Trills scattering.
I snarl and pound my pillow.
It’s too late to slam the door.”

This poem perfectly describes the sense of escape one can find in a book and how vital that can be in a difficult situation. The language used feels as if Garvey has jumped right into the novel he’s reading. He meets the Martians, not the character he is reading about. He is there until the illusion is shattered by the harsh words from his father.

The second stanza opens with “Where did he come from?” This line hides a double-meaning referring to his father’s words coming to him across the vast distance from Earth to Mars where he’s been transported in the novel and his father’s thoughts intruding into his fantasy wondering where Garvey came from as he bears no resemblance to the rest of his family. This thought follows Garvey through the entire novel, eating away at him, even during his brief escapes in the world of science fiction.

The last line “It’s too late to slam the door” refers both to the physical door that might have muffled his father’s voice and prevented the intrusion and the door to his fantasy world that he was so harshly ripped from back to the harsh reality of being a failure to his father.

Take Five Activity:

  1. Read the poem and discuss the students’ initial impressions of Garvey’s relationship with his father.
  2. Have the students re-read the poem on their own and journal about times they’ve felt something similar with their parents, friends, or anyone else.
  3. Read Jacob’s New Dress by Sarah Hoffman and discuss the importance of being oneself.
  4. Re-read the poem again, slowly and let the students come up with ideas how Garvey’s story could end happily in this poem alone.
  5. Have each student write a short poem to follow this selection about Garvey choosing to be himself.

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