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The Watcher
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The Watcher
illustrated by Bryan Collier
Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, October 9, 2017
ISBN: 978-0802854452


A poetic story inspired by Psalm 121

Jordan lives in fear of Tanya, the class bully. But Tanya has worries of her own, no matter how much she tries to ignore them. It seems impossible that Jordan and Tanya could be anything other than enemies, but the Lord is watching over them, guiding each of them along a path that might just help them to understand one another.

Using the golden shovel format, I've worked with Psalm 121 to tell a story of compassion, friendship, and faith. Bryan Collier has created illustrations that bring this story to life.


Catholic Press Association 2017 Foreword INDIES Bronze Award
Children's Book Award Honorable Mention
Junior Library Guild Selection
Kirkus Best Children’s Book of 2017
Kirkus Prize Finalist
NCTE Notable Poetry List 2018
WORLD Picture Book of the Year 2017, WORLD Magazine


starred review In short bursts of poetry, readers meet Jordan, who fears his tormentor, and Tanya, the bully, whose stuttering isolates her. … Readers will be moved by Tanya’s fears and Jordan’s ability to reach out. Collier uses his look-and-look-again collage work, here in earth tones, to capture and extend the emotions bubbling near the surface. Childhood concerns, some common, some not, are elevated by the infusion of God into this wholly (and holy) original mix. —Booklist, starred review

starred review When the chaos of life threatens to overtake your soul, a simple psalm can soothe you. In this picture book, Wilder Award-winning author Grimes delivers a compact yet powerful message of hope and encouragement based on Psalm 121. Short poems energized with kindness, despair, hope, regret, and acceptance are delivered using a style she describes in the back of the book as "the golden shovel," a form she also used in One Last Word (2017). Grimes defines this form as using a portion of an existing poem and arranging it in such a way that the end words of each line form a short sentence from the original poem. Using the words from the psalm, woven with carefully crafted words of her own, she tells the story of Jordan and Tanya, two elementary school children struggling with fitting in, trying to survive. Tanya, a black girl, stutters and compensates with meanness; while Jordan, a shy and quiet white boy, just wants to make a friend. Tanya feels the constant brunt of other's lack of compassion and directs that anger toward Jordan. Collier's exquisite artwork combines soft, delicate brush strokes with lively photo collages. The effect is both hyper-realistic and gauzily surreal, a perfect complement to Grimes' poems. A sumptuous work filled with a deliciously wrapped center—perfect for classrooms, school, public, or church libraries, or home: wherever hearts go for mending. —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

starred review The language, by turns soaring and searing, requires close attention, but its beauty is brought to earth in the best way by Collier's resonant photo-collages of school children. —Publishers Weekly, starred review

Not only does Grimes use Psalm 121 for the inspiration for the content, she uses the words of the Psalm in a golden shovel format to structure the narrative as well. Collier’s multimedia illustrations enhance this call for compassion. —NCTE 2018 Notable Poetry Committee

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