Hide Sora notification

Try Sora - the student reading app, by OverDrive

Apple App Store
Google Play Store
  Main Nav
Ordinary Hazards
Cover of Ordinary Hazards
Ordinary Hazards
Borrow Borrow Borrow
Michael L. Printz Honor BookRobert F. Sibert Informational Honor BookBoston Globe/Horn Book Nonfiction Honor BookArnold Adoff Poetry Award for TeensSix Starred Reviews—★Booklist ★BCCB...
Michael L. Printz Honor BookRobert F. Sibert Informational Honor BookBoston Globe/Horn Book Nonfiction Honor BookArnold Adoff Poetry Award for TeensSix Starred Reviews—★Booklist ★BCCB...
Available Formats-
  • Kindle Book
  • OverDrive Read
  • Adobe EPUB eBook
  • Available:
  • Library copies:

Recommended for you



  • Michael L. Printz Honor Book
    Robert F. Sibert Informational Honor Book
    Boston Globe/Horn Book Nonfiction Honor Book
    Arnold Adoff Poetry Award for Teens
    Six Starred Reviews—★Booklist ★BCCB ★The Horn Book ★Publishers Weekly ★School Library Connection ★Shelf Awareness
    A Booklist Best Book for Youth * A BCCB Blue Ribbon * A Horn Book Fanfare Book * A Shelf Awareness Best Children's Book * Recommended on NPR's "Morning Edition" by Kwame Alexander
    "This powerful story, told with the music of poetry and the blade of truth, will help your heart grow."–Laurie Halse Anderson, author of Speak and Shout
    "[A] testimony and a triumph."–Jason Reynolds, author of Long Way Down
    In her own voice, acclaimed author and poet Nikki Grimes explores the truth of a harrowing childhood in a compelling and moving memoir in verse.

    Growing up with a mother suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and a mostly absent father, Nikki Grimes found herself terrorized by babysitters, shunted from foster family to foster family, and preyed upon by those she trusted. At the age of six, she poured her pain onto a piece of paper late one night - and discovered the magic and impact of writing. For many years, Nikki's notebooks were her most enduing companions. In this accessible and inspiring memoir that will resonate with young readers and adults alike, Nikki shows how the power of those words helped her conquer the hazards - ordinary and extraordinary - of her life.


  • From the book ON OUR OWN 

    No one warned me
    the world was full of
    ordinary hazards
    like closets with locks and keys.
    I learned this lesson when Mom,
    without her cousin to fall back on,
    left us daily with
    a succession of strangers
    while she went to work.
    One woman was indisputably
    a demon in disguise,
    full lips grinning slyly
    as Mom waved goodbye
    each morning.
    “See you after work,”
    Mom said that first day.
    The second she was out of sight,
    Demon’s smile melted like
    hot paraffin.
    Snatching up Carol and me,
    she dragged us, kicking, to
    the bedroom closet.
    She shoved us in, quick as the witch
    in “Hansel and Gretel,”
    jamming the key in the lock.
    “You tattle to your mom about this,” 
    she growled, “I’ll comeback
    and beat the black off ya.”
    Deadly threat delivered,
    she left for the day.

    I screamed, my puny fists pounding the door
    till Carol caught me by the wrists
    and held me still. “Shhhh,” she whispered.
    “It’s okay. I’m right here.”
    Once my breathing slowed,
    Carol left me long enough
    to navigate the darkness.
    She found suitcases to sit on.  
    Sniffling, I perched on the edge of one
     and pressed my fingertips together.
    “Now I lay me down to sleep,
    I pray the Lord my soul to keep.”
    I repeated those words
    like a chant.
    I was three years old.
    It was the only prayer I knew.
    I should’ve prayed not to pee my pants.
    The cramped and stuffy space 
    made me wheeze.
    Brass fittings on the Samsonite case
    dug into the flesh
    behind my knees.
    But worse yet,
    the occasional roach
    skittered along my calf,
    up a thigh,
    and I would scratch
    and stomp and cry
    till it was off.
    No one was around
    to wipe away my tears, 
    except my sister,
    who had tears of her own.
    Day after day,
    the routine remained unchanged.
    Demon locked us up in the morning,
    then let us out and fed us just before
    Mom came home from work.
    Despite the witch’s threat,
    the minute Carol saw Mom, she poured out
    the horrors of that first day,
    but Mom waved her away
    with a warning
    to quit lying.
    One afternoon,
    when I thought
    we’d live in the dark forever,
    I heard what sounded like 
    a familiar voice.
    “Mommy?” I screamed,
    afraid to believe.
    But the lock turned,
    the door flew open,
    and I leaped into Mom’s arms.
    “My God!” she said.
    “How long have you two
    been in here?”
    “All day,” snapped Carol,
    keeping her distance.
    “I told you!
    I told you,
    but you called me a liar!”
    The slap of words sent
    Mom to her knees, please 
    written all over her face.
    “I’m so sorry,” she whispered,
    reaching for my sister.
    Carol backed away.
    “Jesus,” Mom said. “What did
    this woman do? Are you all right?”
    Where to begin?
    There were too many answers.
    Even my big sister
    lacked the language needed
    for them all,
    so we chose silence.
    Besides, it was impossible to guess
    which atrocities
    Mom was
    prepared to hear.
    Thankfully, my sister and I
    never laid eyes on that
    bit of walking evil again. Still,
    Demon lived inside us for...

About the Author-

  • New York Times bestselling author Nikki Grimes is the recipient of the Coretta Scott King-Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement, the ALA Children’s Literature Legacy Award, and the NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children. Her books include her critically acclaimed memoir in verse Ordinary Hazards as well as picture books Kamala Harris: Rooted in Justice and Barack Obama: Son of Promise, Child of Hope. She won the Coretta Scott King Award for Bronx Masquerade and earned a Coretta Scott King Author Honor five times—for Words with WingsJazmin's NotebookDark SonsTalkin’ About Bessie, and The Road to Paris. Visit nikkigrimes.com


  • School Library Journal

    October 1, 2019

    Gr 7 Up-Grimes offers young adult readers the special treat of literary ingenuity in her new memoir. "Time to grab my flashlight / and step into the tunnel," Grimes writes in an early poem-making reference to her task with this new work. In long poems, short poems, and the occasional prose poem, Grimes guides us through her past tragedies and triumphs while keenly observed moments build her inner world. Readers spend time with three different points of view: child Grimes, adolescent Grimes, and burgeoning adult Grimes. Though the circumstances and characters change as she moves and grows, her voice is consistently spare and warm. The poems about experiencing neglect as a five-year-old carry the same powerful simplicity as those written about high school. A memoir that doesn't demand a time line, this work is a personal history in poems that you can read backward and forward. VERDICT This nontraditional memoir from a long-working and highly acclaimed author will speak deeply to young readers harboring their own interest in writing or otherwise squeezing art out of life's spiky fruit.-Sierra Dickey, Center for New Americans, Northampton, MA

    Copyright 2019 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    August 15, 2019
    For award-winning children's and YA author Grimes (Between the Lines, 2018, etc.), writing, faith, and determination were the keys to surviving her tumultuous childhood. In the face of her father's abandonment and the revolving door of her alcoholic mother's psychiatric hospital stays, Grimes becomes savvier and more resilient than any young child should have to be. After being abused by a babysitter when she was 3, Grimes and her beloved older sister, Carol, enter another set of revolving doors: foster care, sometimes loving, sometimes not. At a dark moment when she is 6, Grimes finds escape and comfort in prayer and writing. Despite the instability and danger she endures, Grimes blossoms into a gifted teen with a passion for books, journaling, and poetry. Her personal, political, and artistic awakenings are intertwined, with the drama of her family life unfolding against the backdrop of pivotal moments in Civil Rights-era America. Grimes recounts her story as a memoir in verse, writing with a poet's lyricism through the lens of memory fractured by trauma. Fans of her poetry and prose will appreciate this intimate look at the forces that shaped her as an artist and as a person determined to find the light in the darkest of circumstances. A raw, heartbreaking, and ultimately uplifting story of trauma, loss, and the healing power of words. (Verse memoir. 12-adult)

    COPYRIGHT(2019) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Booklist

    Starred review from June 1, 2019
    Grades 9-12 *Starred Review* With Ordinary Hazards, Grimes delivers a memoir in the form of a powerful and inspiring collection of poems. She details her early life through adulthood, and she unabashedly explores the highs as well as the lows. Grimes' struggle with a mother suffering from mental illness, an absent father, and an abusive stepfather plunged her life into turmoil at an early age. Yet through it all, she persevered and used writing as an outlet for her pain. She delves into finding a loving found family after being separated from her older sister and bounced around in foster care, ultimately having to choose between her found family and her birth mother, after her birth mother claims to be well enough for Grimes to come home. Young adults will identify with and connect to the many challenges explored in Grimes' work, which delves into issues of love, family, responsibility, belonging, finding your place in the world, and fighting the monsters you know?and the ones you don't. The memoir has heartbreaking moments?even soul-crushing ones?that will make readers ache for young Grimes and teens grappling with similar circumstances. But inspiring moments bolster her raw, resonant story, showing that there is always light at the end of the darkest of tunnels.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2019, American Library Association.)

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from July 29, 2019
    Grimes (One Last Word) presents a gripping memoir in verse constructed from imperfect recollections of the hardship and abuse she endured as a child. Having lost chunks of her memory as a result of traumatic experiences, Grimes relies on her art to fill in the blanks. In recurring entries titled “The Mystery of Memory,” and “Notebook,” Grimes contextualizes her scattered remembrances to provide a sense of time and place for readers (“Where is the chronology of a life/ chaotic from the start?”). Grimes eloquently conveys the instability of a childhood lived in the unpredictable wake of a mentally ill mother and abusive stepfather alongside hopeful anecdotes about the safe haven provided by her beloved older sister, her growing faith, and the often absent yet doting father she lost too soon. Underlining the idea that “a memoir’s focus is on truth, not fact,” Grimes courageously invites readers to join her on a journey through the shadows of her past, bridging “the gaps/ with suspension cables/ forged of steely gratitude/ for having survived my past/at all.” Ages 12–up. (Oct.)

  • The Horn Book

    July 1, 2019
    Grimes reconstructs her life story from a patchwork of recollections; old photos; and a few artifacts salvaged despite her impoverished family's frequent moves and time in foster care. Mental illness, alcoholism, domestic violence, and sexual abuse made Grime's early life hazardous and traumatic; writing offered solace and confidence. Striking free-verse poems powerfully convey how her passion helped her survive and embrace her own resilience. A must-read for aspiring writers.

    (Copyright 2019 by The Horn Book, Incorporated, Boston. All rights reserved.)

  • The Horn Book

    Starred review from September 1, 2019
    As poetically written as Woodson's Brown Girl Dreaming (rev. 9/14) with a story as hard-hitting as Sapphire's Push. In her author's note, poet Grimes (winner of the 2017 Children's Literature Legacy Award) says that memoirs focus on truth, not fact. Because of the childhood trauma she suffered, she has limited memories of her early years but has constructed the truths of her life from a patchwork of recollections; photos obtained from friends and family; and a few artifacts salvaged despite the frequent moves of her impoverished family and time spent in foster care. Overshadowing most of the story, her mother's mental illness (paranoid schizophrenia), alcoholism, and marriage to an abusive and irresponsible man made Grimes's early life hazardous. In a childhood in which she had to elude rats in her apartments and bullies and gangs in her neighborhoods and in which she was sexually violated by her stepfather, young Nikki found solace and confidence through her identity as a writer. She was supported and nurtured by her sister, from whom she was separated at age five; by her father, a violinist who immersed Nikki in Harlem's Black Arts scene; and by an English teacher who insisted on excellence. As her story unfolds (the book is arranged in sections, chronologically, beginning in 1950 and ending in 1966), the striking free-verse poems powerfully convey how a passion for writing fueled her will to survive and embrace her own resilience. My spiral notebook bulges / with poems and prayers / and questions only God / can answer. / Rage burns the pages, / but better them / than me. A must-read for aspiring writers. michelle h. martin

    (Copyright 2019 by The Horn Book, Incorporated, Boston. All rights reserved.)

  • Shelf Awareness, starred review "Ordinary Hazards is a gorgeous piece of writing that also serves as powerful inspiration for any reader who has struggled and sought grace. Grimes's triumph over adversity is matched only by her skill with the written word--her memoir is accessible to poetry enthusiasts and detractors alike, and will linger long after the final lines."
  • Booklist, starred review ★ "With Ordinary Hazards, Grimes delivers a memoir in the form of a powerful and inspiring collection of poems. She details her early life through adulthood, and she unabashedly explores the highs as well as the lows. Young adults will identify with and connect to the many challenges explored in Grimes' work, which delves into issues of love, family, responsibility, belonging, finding your place in the world, and fighting the monsters you know--and the ones you don't. The memoir has heartbreaking moments--even soul-crushing ones--that will make readers ache for young Grimes and teens grappling with similar circumstances. But inspiring moments bolster her raw, resonant story, showing that there is always light at the end of the darkest of tunnels."

Title Information+

  • Publisher
    Astra Publishing House
  • Kindle Book
    Release date:
  • OverDrive Read
    Release date:
  • Adobe EPUB eBook
    Release date:

Digital Rights Information+

  • Copyright Protection (DRM) required by the Publisher may be applied to this title to limit or prohibit printing or copying. File sharing or redistribution is prohibited. Your rights to access this material expire at the end of the lending period. Please see Important Notice about Copyrighted Materials for terms applicable to this content.
Township High School District 214 Digital Library footer graphic
powered by OverDrive

You've reached your checkout limit.

Visit your Checkouts page to manage your titles.


You already have this title checked out.

Want to go to your Checkouts?


Recommendation Limit Reached.

You have reached the maximum number of titles you are allowed to recommend at this time. You can recommend up to 3 titles every 1 days.


Sign in to recommend this title.

Recommend this title for your digital library.


Enhanced Details:


Limited availability

Availability can change throughout the month based on the library's budget.

is available for days.

Once playback starts, you have hours to view the title.




There are no copies of this issue left to borrow. Please try to borrow this title again when a new issue is released.


The OverDrive Read format of this eBook has professional narration that plays while you read in your browser. Learn more here.



Total holds:



Some format options have been disabled. You may see additional download options outside of this network.


MP3 audiobooks are only supported on macOS 10.6 (Snow Leopard) through 10.14 (Mojave). Learn more about MP3 audiobook support on Macs.


Please update to the latest version of the OverDrive app to stream videos.


Bahrain, Egypt, Hong Kong, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the Sudan, the Syrian Arab Republic, Tunisia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen


You've reached your library's checkout limit for digital titles.

To make room for more checkouts, you may be able to return titles from your Checkouts page.


Excessive Checkout Limit Reached.

There have been too many titles checked out and returned by your account within a short period of time.

Try again in several days. If you are still not able to check out titles after 7 days, please contact Support.


You have already checked out this title. To access it, return to your Checkouts page.


This title is not available for your card type. If you think this is an error contact support.


An unexpected error has occurred.

If this problem persists, please contact support.



NOTE: Barnes and Noble® may change this list of devices at any time.

Recommend this title for your digital library
Ordinary Hazards
Ordinary Hazards
Nikki Grimes
Buy it now
and support our digital library!
Ordinary Hazards
Ordinary Hazards
Nikki Grimes
A portion of your purchase goes to support your digital library.
Barnes & Noble Sign In |   Sign In

The first time you select “Send to NOOK,” you will be taken to a Barnes & Noble page to sign into (or create) your NOOK account. You should only have to sign into your NOOK account once to link it to your library account. After this one-time step, periodicals will be automatically sent to your NOOK account when you select "Send to NOOK."

You can read periodicals on any NOOK tablet or in the free NOOK reading app for iOS, Android or Windows 8.

Sora Turbo
Get the app!
Apple App Store
Google Play Store
Brought to you by Township High School District 214, and built with 💕 by OverDrive.

Renewing this title won't extend your lending period. Instead, it will let you borrow the title again immediately after your first lending period expires.


You can't renew this title because there are holds on it. However, you can join the holds list and be notified when it becomes available for you to borrow again.