Garvey's Choice


Who are you going to be...the person you are meant to be...or the person your father is telling you to be?

That's the choice Garvey has before him.  Garvey is a round guy who loves to eat.  He hears every name in the book because of it.  At dinner his own sister, Angela, says to him, "Leave us some little piggy."  Doesn't she know that he bleeds every time he hears a cut like that one?

Garvey loves to read.  Garvey loves to invent things and fly to other worlds through his vivid imagination.  He and his best friend Joe practice chess together, eat roast chicken and peach cobbler together, and tell each other knock knock jokes.  They see who each other is inside and they are true and loyal friends.

Garvey, Sweet Chunk to his sister, is not living up to his father's expectations.  Football or basketball is his language of male bonding.  He constantly prods Garvey to play, to practice, to go out for a pass.  He can't see Garvey or maybe he doesn't want to.  Garvey lives a life of constantly disappointing this man whose opinion means the world.

Told in tanta, an ancient poetry form from Japan, each chapter is a group of poems consisting of five lines.  The first line has five syallables, the second line has seven syllables, the third line has five syllables and the fourth and fifth lines each have seven syllables.

This book reads in the blink of an eye but Garvey's hurts become our own.  We feel the rejection and we feel what it's like to be bullied at school for how you look.  We see beyond the roundness into the shards of glass that cut into Garvey every day and send him in search of a safe place where he doesn't have to feel the pain.

Thank goodness for good friends.  Thank goodness for the courage to take a risk.  Thank goodness for the hope that life can change.

Deeply empathetic, fast-paced, dearly felt story of a boy anyone would love if they simply took a moment to see beyond the score on the scale.  In a time when we need to be reminded to stand in someone else's shoes, to understand that there are reasons people act the way they act and that we all have the option of choosing to become our best selves in how we treat others and ourselves, this is a sparkling jewel.

108 pages   Ages 10-14  978-1629797404

Recommended by:  Barb Langridge,


“...My father would lift me high

And dance with my mother and me

And then

Spin me around ‘till I fell asleep

Then up the stairs he would carry me

And I knew for sure

I was loved”

--Luther Vandross, “Dance With My Father”

“The Luther is ‘a house-made brioche donut, glazed in maple-chicken a jus and topped with warm pieces of oven-baked pecans. While that sounds like a meal already, the brioche is cut in half and stuffed with a piece of buttermilk fried chicken and wedges of applewood smoked bacon.’

“...Legend has it that Luther Vandross, the wonderfully soulful R&B singer, created the original sandwich. That might explain some of his health problems that included diabetes and high blood pressure, both linked to bad diet and being overweight. Vandross died in 2005, at the young age of 54, of a heart attack.

“Do you really want to eat a sandwich named after the man it killed?”

-- Davalos McCormick, “The Sandwich that Killed Luther Vandross” (2011)


Luther died before

I knew his music, his name.

It’s the why of it

makes me want to punch a wall.

He shouldn’t have died at all.

News stories agree.

What did him in was his weight,

all that yo-yoing,

up and down, losing, gaining.

His heart just couldn’t take it.

I did the right thing,

giving up crash dieting.

Maybe it’s better

to eat less, jog with Joe, go

slow so I can stick around.

An engaging verse novel for middle grade readers employing the tanka poetic format, GARVEY’S CHOICE features an overweight boy who seeks to discover his own voice as he struggles with body issues and his father’s disapproval.

Garvey is named for black nationalist Marcus Garvey. He’s into reading, astronomy, and chess, activities that don’t involve a lot of running and coordination. He fears that his sports-loving father sees him as an alien. He’s picked on at school for being overweight. His best friend is Joe.


Joe caught me dancing

in first grade, during recess,

out back by the slide,

alone--or so I thought, till

Joe showed up and joined right in.

Seems funny now, ‘cause

there was no music playing

and neither of us

minded or needed any.

We were our own melody.

We went back to class,

each waiting for the other

to spill his secret

for a laugh. But we didn’t.

That’s how we knew we’d be friends.

Thanks to Joe and another good friend, Garvey finds the confidence to try out for concert choir, and his success with singing helps him strive toward healthier management of his weight problem.

GARVEY’S CHOICE is a feel-good story. Garvey’s newfound talent leads to healthy self-confidence and an improved personal relationship with his father.

This is an important story because of Garvey’s weight problem. For years, experts in public health have warned that the U.S. is suffering catastrophic health crises due to widespread obesity and the related epidemic of Type II diabetes. Diets that include too much soda, junk food, and processed food combine with sedentary lifestyles. The result, according to the CDC, is that one in three American children and adolescents are overweight or obese, and over one-third of American adults are obese and at risk of dying prematurely. Therefore, it’s great to see this issue as part of the story.

For some, GARVEY’S CHOICE will be a quick and easy read. It’s approachable, short, and there is a lot of white space. For others, those who enjoy a memorable turn-of-phrase and who like to poke around in the stitching and see how an author weaves words into a poetic pattern, this is a tasty treat to savor.

Richie Partington, MLIS, California USA

See more of his recommendations:  Richie's Picks <>



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