HARLEM

A hot new artist and his distinguished father fashion a picture book with a stirring sound at its center. Walter Dean Myers (Slam!, p. 1536, etc.) gives poetry a jazz backbeat to tell the story of Harlem, the historic center of African-American culture in New York City. To newcomers from Waycross, Georgia, from East St. Louis, from Trinidad, "Harlem was a promise." Listing the streets and the churches, naming Langston and Countee, Shango and Jesus, the text is rich with allusion. The imagery springs to life at once: "Ring-a-levio warriors/Stickball heroes"; "a full lipped, full hipped/Saint washing collard greens . . . Backing up Lady Day on the radio." A strong series of images of ink and gouache capture the beauty of faces, from the very old to very young, from golden to blue- black. Christopher Myers sets his scenes to match the streets, fire escapes, jazz clubs, and kitchens of Harlem, and makes them by turns starkly stylized as an Egyptian mask or sweet as a stained glass window. Put this on the shelf next to Chris Raschka's Charlie Parker Played Be-Bop (1992) and see if anyone can sit still when the book is read aloud. (Picture book. 5+)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-590-54340-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1996

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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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