One Last Word: Wisdom from the Harlem Renaissance

Book review by
Terreece Clarke, Common Sense Media
One Last Word: Wisdom from the Harlem Renaissance Book Poster Image
Soaring, poignant poems explore identity and struggle.

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age 10+
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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Presents an example the Golden Shovel style of poetry, which is explained. Introduces readers to the work of famous poets of the Harlem Renaissance. It provides an introduction to the history of the Harlem Renaissance and poet biographies. There's also information about the original illustrations included in the book.

Positive Messages

Strong messages about perseverance, discovering and protecting self-worth, rejecting stereotypes, following your dreams, and getting support form family and mentors. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

There are a variety of role models, from the Harlem Renaissance poets, to the modern-day poets, to the subjects of the poetry themselves. Parents say things to children that are positive and life-affirming. Kids make positive e declarations and discoveries, as well. 


There are few mentions of violence, including racial violence, bullying, and police brutality. A few parents are noted as being dead, including one "snatched by war."


Mention of someone dancing naked, not in a sexual way but to as a way to affirm positive body image. One poem focuses on dating and prom -- typical boy/girl relationships. Another poem discusses how a boy finds a girl attractive and wonders if she's ever been kissed. 


There is allusion to hurtful, racially charged words, but none are use.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that One Last Word: Wisdom form the Harlem Renaissance is a collection of poems by award-winning author Nikki Grimes. Grimes uses the so-called Golden Shovel style of poetry to build new poems around parts of works by poets of the Harlem Renaissance, a literary, artistic, and intellectual movement in New York City from 1918 through 1937. The poems cover a variety of topics, including interracial dating, racial and gender stereotypes, racial inequality, and self-image. These topics are covered in an uplifting, inspiring, and at times frank tone.

User Reviews

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Teen, 13 years old Written byCorinneSimmons October 1, 2019

Extremely Good!

This is a book of poems about the Harlem Renaissance and it is incredible! It's really educational and it's good for expanding your reading horizons.... Continue reading

What's the story?

ONE LAST WORD: WISDOM FROM THE HARLEM RENAISSANCE is a brilliant collection of Golden Shovel poetry -- poetry that takes part of an already published poem and then uses it to create a whole new poem. Harnessing poignant poetry from Harlem Renaissance poetry greats like Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Bennett, Clara Ann Thompson, Jean Toomer, among others modern-day masters, Nikki Grimes spins new poems with new situations, calls to action, and wisdom for life that in most cases have a distinctly modern edge. 

Is it any good?

Award-wining auhor Nikki Grimes' tribute to the poetry of the Harlem Renaissance is moving, soaring, meaty, and downright beautiful. One Last Word: Wisdom from the Harlem Renaissance brings together best and some lesser known poets of the movement, taking their wisdom and words and applying them to whole new ideas, situations, and characters, imparting wisdom, encouragement, and inspiration to a whole new generation of poetry fans. Grimes helps bring the haunting words of Langston Hughes' famous "Dear Son" and Jean Toomer's "Storm Ending" to kids who may not have discovered them otherwise, while expertly weaving in her own gripping and deep work.

The vibrant and varied illustrations of 15 artists add depth and underscore the poems' power. It's a seamless, eye-opening collaboration. Parents and kids alike will love Grimes' take on timeless issues of self-worth, positive motivation, racial stress, and relentlessly followoing your dreams. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can discuss the issues with self-image presented in One Last Word: Wisdom from the Harlem Renaissance. Which poems touch on the media's influence how people see themselves and how others see them? How do you think the media could do a better job of portraying women and minorities?

  • Families can talk about the use of the Golden Shovel technique in One Last Word. Can you take one of the poems featured and create your own poem from it?

  • Families can also talk about positive motivation featured in the book. Which poem inspires you the most?

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