THE NEGRO SPEAKS OF RIVERS

A visual paean to Hughes’s enduring poem, Lewis’s images make a personal connection to a taproot of feelings. The 12 lines of the poem, considered Hughes’s signature song of the Harlem Renaissance, are poignantly expressed through the artist’s trademark watercolors, which depict in successive double-page spreads black children playing by the Euphrates, a mother and child sleeping by the Congo and fishermen with a net waist-deep in the Nile. The penultimate image, also depicted on the cover, brings the poem into the present with a grandfather and child fishing by a modern Mississippi River bridge. Lewis states in a concluding note that he nearly drowned as a child, and his paintings are awash with emotion. While the picture-book format targets the book for young readers, the word “Negro” in the title may require some context. It has the capacity to reach far above the normal picture-book ages, however, and should be considered for older collections. The beautifully reverent, serene cover image will persuade all to look inside. (Picture book. 5 & up)

Pub Date: Jan. 6, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-7868-1867-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Disney-Jump at the Sun

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2008

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BRONZEVILLE BOYS AND GIRLS

Brooks’s gloriously universal celebration of African-American childhood here receives a respectful and joyous treatment from one of the pre-eminent illustrators of the same. Readers coming to “Narcissa,” “Beulah at Church” and “Marie Lucille” for the first time will discover them accompanied by Ringgold’s trademark folk-art interpretations, the expressive brown figures depicted for the most part as vignettes against bright backgrounds. They show a Bronzeville that bustles with activity, single-family homes sharing the streets with apartment buildings and the occasional vacant lot. The children run, braids and arms out straight, and contemplate in turns, their exuberance tempered by the solemnity of childhood. While it’s regrettable that occasionally the specificity of the illustration robs a verse of its universality—the “special place” referenced in “Keziah” is shown to be underneath the kitchen table, for instance—the overall ebullience of the images more than compensates. There is a drop of truth in every single playful, piercing stanza, and anything that brings these poems to a new audience is to be cheered; a lovely package indeed. (Picture book/poetry. 7+)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2007

ISBN: 0-06-029505-8

Page Count: 48

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2006

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ALL THE COLORS OF THE EARTH

This heavily earnest celebration of multi-ethnicity combines full-bleed paintings of smiling children, viewed through a golden haze dancing, playing, planting seedlings, and the like, with a hyperbolic, disconnected text—``Dark as leopard spots, light as sand,/Children buzz with laughter that kisses our land...''— printed in wavy lines. Literal-minded readers may have trouble with the author's premise, that ``Children come in all the colors of the earth and sky and sea'' (green? blue?), and most of the children here, though of diverse and mixed racial ancestry, wear shorts and T-shirts and seem to be about the same age. Hamanaka has chosen a worthy theme, but she develops it without the humor or imagination that animates her Screen of Frogs (1993). (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-688-11131-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1994

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