Title: Sentences: The Life of M.F. Grimm
Author: Percy Carey & Ronald Wimberly
Publication Year: 2007
Genre: Graphic Novel, Memoir
Source: Library at work
This book has been sitting on the top of the display shelf at work for quite a while, even after I re-arranged the library, starting me right in the face. I’m surprised that it took me this long to pick it up, but glad that I finally did.
Sentences tells the story of Percy Carey (aka M.F. Grimm) from his perspective, as he lives in the world of American hip-hop and street crews. It’s a really good look into the mentality behind the people who get involved in that kind of lifestyle, and why they make the choices that they do. For example, the way he refuses to tell the police about the man that shot him and his brother is something that most people can’t understand – but he tries to explain it to the readers, even as he remembers plotting revenge.
There are moments in this book that are fantastic and poignant, but overall, I was a little disappointed. Carey has tried to fit a lot of information into a very short graphic novel – though usually skimming over things quickly, without much detail – and the quality suffers. For most of the story, Carey “tells” way more than he “shows”, which isn’t a sign of a strong graphic novel. This could easily have been expanded into a longer book, or even into separate volumes. That way, there could have been much more detail and more “showing” happening, something that I as a reader would have much appreciated.
Despite its flaws, Sentences is definitely a good book for my school to have. Our student population is almost 100% at-risk (impoverished, community housing, broken families, etc.) and about 75% cannot read beyond a third grade level, even though they are in high school. Graphic novels, particularly ones about things that affect their lives (or that they think affect their lives, even if they don’t really) are one of the ways that we can get students to read. This book is probably only suitable for those who can read at a slightly higher level, maybe a grade 5-9 level, but it’s still a useful tool for students who don’t want to, or can’t, read full-length novels.
If you’re into hip hop, gang culture, or just want a quick graphic novel read (it took me about an hour), go for this book. Otherwise, though, you’re not really missing much.