A Walk in the Woods

By Nikki Grimes
Illustrators Illustrated by Jerry Pinkney,Brian Pinkney Edition

Hardcover edition

Publisher Holiday House Imprint Neal Porter Books ISBN


A Walk in the Woods

In stock

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.

A 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 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.

Author’s note. Illustrator’s note from Brian Pinkney. Full-color illustrations created with watercolor. 
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Praise & Reviews

School Library Journal

Gr 1–4—Grimes writes a heartrending story of loss as a young boy struggles to deal with the death of his father. When the child looks in the mirror, he is disheartened by what he sees—he is all but a replica of his father who has recently died. His father has left him a map of the woods behind their home with a red mark. He decides to take a walk in the woods, which he and his father did regularly. He begins to have an inner dialogue with his dad about the wildlife he sees and hears, and when he finds the place that is marked on the map, he sees a brick fireplace where a house once stood. Inside a metal box are beautiful drawings of wildlife and an unfinished tale. He realizes that his father created the drawings and the story when he was the boy's age, and the child finds a note from his father encouraging him to continue the story or write his own. This poignant story, obviously amplified by the passing of Jerry Pinkney, is quietly haunting and resonates with the shared experiences of parent and child. There is a third Pinkney involved, Charnelle Pinkney Barlow, who worked with Brian Pinkney to digitally combine Jerry's sketches with his own impressionistic applications of color. VERDICT Illustrations and narrative are warp and weft in a beautifully crafted story of grief and triumph. Great for any children's collection.—Annmarie Braithwaite

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