BLUES JOURNEY

A powerful union of text and image transmutes itself into a work of art—and it explains what the blues is, besides. Walter Dean Myers takes fragments of blues songs and creates an arc of poetry with them. His son, Christopher, using only brown paper, blue ink, and white paint, creates a visual counterpoint to the words that sometimes reflects them and other times goes to a different but related place. In his one-page introduction, the elder Myers describes the blues as coming from the encounter between the five-tone scale and the call-and-response singing of African music, and the American idiom. This volume comes as close as you can in print to reproducing the feeling of the blues, even as Chris Raschka did for Bird in Charlie Parker Played Be Bop (1992), and does it in a way that small children can grasp. “Hollered to my woman, / she was across the way” shows a boy and his grandmother hovering over an open book; “Misery loves company, / blues can live alone” shows two boys sitting on a curb, one turns from the other. “If you see a dollar, tell it my full name” faces a portrait of a young man against a wrought iron fence. He holds his shoe up to his face and looks steadily through the hole in its sole to gaze at the viewer. Myers fils wields his limited palette in extraordinary ways: figures are blue and blue-black and brown, they have a sculptural presence against dark or light backgrounds, and their postures respond strongly to the words. “Blues, what you mean to me? / Are you my pain and misery, / or my sweet, sweet company?” Children will see both replies in the pictures and in the sweet dark rhythm of the words. (Picture book. 6-11)

Pub Date: March 15, 2003

ISBN: 0-8234-1613-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2003

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VISITING LANGSTON

A little girl is going with her daddy to visit the home of Langston Hughes. She too is a poet who writes about the loves of her life—her mommy and daddy, hip-hop, hopscotch, and double-dutch, but decidedly not kissing games. Langston is her inspiration because his poems make her “dreams run wild.” In simple, joyful verse Perdomo tells of this “Harlem girl” from “Harlem world” whose loving, supportive father tells her she is “Langston’s genius child.” The author’s own admiration for Hughes’s artistry and accomplishments is clearly felt in the voice of this glorious child. Langston’s spirit is a gentle presence throughout the description of his East 127th Street home and his method of composing his poetry sitting by the window. The presentation is stunning. Each section of the poem is part of a two-page spread. Text, in yellow, white, or black, is placed either within the illustrations or in large blocks of color along side them. The last page of text is a compilation of titles of Hughes’s poems printed in shades of gray in a myriad of fonts. Collier’s (Martin’s Big Words, 2001, etc.) brilliantly complex watercolor-and-collage illustrations provide the perfect visual complement to the work. From the glowing vitality of the little girl, to the vivid scenes of jazz-age Harlem, to the compelling portrait of Langston at work, to the reverential peak into Langston’s home, the viewer’s eye is constantly drawn to intriguing bits and pieces while never losing the sense of the whole. In this year of Langston Hughes’s centennial, this work does him great honor. (Poetry. 6-10)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-8050-6744-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2002

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DINOSAURS GALORE!

A dozen familiar dinosaurs introduce themselves in verse in this uninspired, if colorful, new animal gallery from the authors of Commotion in the Ocean (2000). Smiling, usually toothily, and sporting an array of diamonds, lightning bolts, spikes and tiger stripes, the garishly colored dinosaurs make an eye-catching show, but their comments seldom measure up to their appearance: “I’m a swimming reptile, / I dive down in the sea. / And when I spot a yummy squid, / I eat it up with glee!” (“Ichthyosaurus”) Next to the likes of Kevin Crotty’s Dinosongs (2000), illustrated by Kurt Vargo, or Jack Prelutsky’s classic Tyrannosaurus Was A Beast (1988), illustrated by Arnold Lobel, there’s not much here to roar about. (Picture book/poetry. 7-9)

Pub Date: March 1, 2005

ISBN: 1-58925-044-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tiger Tales

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2005

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