A Walk in the Woods
In this moving account of loss, a boy takes a walk in the woods and makes a discovery that changes his understanding of his father.
week after the funeral
I stare in the morning mirror
Angry that my father’s eyes
Stare back at me.
Confused and distraught after the death of his father, a boy opens an envelope he left behind and is surprised to find a map of the woods beyond their house, with one spot marked in bright red. But why? The woods had been something they shared together, why would his father want him to go alone?
Slowly, his mind settles as he sets off through the spaces he once explored with his dad, passing familiar beech and black oak trees, flitting Carolina wrens, and a garter snake they named Sal. When he reaches the spot marked on the map, he finds pages upon pages of drawings of woodland creatures, made by his father when he was his age. What he sees shows him a side of his dad he never knew, and something even deeper for them to share together. His dad knew what he really needed was a walk in the woods.
New York Times bestselling author Nikki Grimes and the Caldecott Award winning illustrator Jerry Pinkney spent the early days of the pandemic emailing back and forth and talking about collaborating on a book, with Jerry sharing all of the pictures he took of the woods around his house. From this, they conjured a story of a boy’s struggle with grief, and all the things he sees and feels on a walk through the forest.
Jerry sadly passed away in the fall of 2021, but not before he delivered tight pencil sketches of the forests he loved. When his son Brian took on the task of completing the illustrations, he found himself connecting with his father in a whole new way, his experience mirroring that of the boy in the book. The result is a simultaneously touching and deeply authentic story about the ways shared pastimes keep us close to those we’ve lost.
A New York Times Best Children's Book of the Year
A Smithsonian Magazine Best Children's Book of the Year
An NPR Book We Love
A Kirkus Reviews Best Picture Book of the Year
A Horn Book Fanfare Book
A Bookstagang Best Illustrated Picture Book of the Year
A Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year
A Shelf Awareness Best Book of the Year!
One of BookPage's Ten Best Books of the Year
A CSMCL Best Multicultural Children’s Book of the Year
A Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection
An Evanston Public Library Great Book for Kids
Praise for A Walk in the Woods
"[A] wise and heartfelt tale. . . ."— The New York Times
"Writer Nikki Grimes and illustrator Jerry Pinkney, both legends in their own right, decided to finally collaborate on a children’s book. . . While mourning the death of her friend and the project that brought the two so much joy, Grimes found out, through Pinkney’s wife, that their son Brian Pinkney, also an illustrator, would add watercolor to his dad’s finished pencil sketches to complete them."—Smithsonian Magazine
★ "Illustrations and narrative are warp and weft in a beautifully crafted story of grief and triumph. Great for any children’s collection." —School Library Journal, Starred Review
★ "A powerfully layered call to creativity and loving bonds that endure beyond death. . . ."—Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
★ "Together, Grimes and the Pinkneys have produced a profoundly stirring and thought-provoking musing on how the ones we love never really leave us. Joy and hope walk alongside sadness and grief in this unforgettable work."—Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review
★ "Grimes wrote the free verse text, which tells the story concisely, while expressing the boy’s shifting emotions beautifully. Before his death in 2021, Jerry Pinkney finished the detailed, engaging drawings, which reflect his love for the natural world. Afterwards, his son Brian Pinkney was asked to add the watercolor washes, which have a distinctive, ethereal quality that enhances the story. An original, inspiring picture book."—Booklist, Starred Review
★ "An exquisite story of heartbreak and hope. The collaboration between Grimes and both Pinkneys is seamless, as if all were completely of one mind."—BookPage, Starred Review
★ "Grimes’ lyrical, skillful text evokes the deep, painful well of the boy’s sorrow yet manages to balance that angst with the wonder and joy he finds along his walk, highlighting the complexity of grief within a constantly changing natural world that relies on both life and death to continue. . . . The artistic collaboration is a true wonder, as Jerry’s signature thin, sketchy linework is brought to life by Brian’s radiant, swirling watercolors, creating a splendid mix of energy and delicacy that complements Grimes’ text with ease."—The Bulletin for the Center of Children’s Books, Starred Review
★ "Grimes captures the woods' sensory delights with precision and lyricism. . . . To see Jerry's sketches lit by Brian's dazzling colors and swirling lines is wondrous. This exceptional story stands as a moving account of a Black boy finding solace in nature--but also serves as a marvelous tribute to Jerry Pinkney."—Shelf Awareness, Starred Review
★ "Grimes’s celebration of nature is as eloquent as her treatment of loss is poignant. Brian Pinkney’s watercolor illustrations are equally expressive."—The Horn Book, Starred Review