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by Walter Dean Myers
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From School Library Journal
Grade 6 Up. A visually striking, oversized picture book. Walter Dean Myers's songlike poem relates the story of a group of people who settled in New York City, hoping to improve their lots in life, only to discover that racism could still keep them from achieving success. Well-known Harlem landmarks, such as the Cotton Club and the Apollo Theater, are mentioned, as are famous African Americans, like Langston Hughes and Joe Louis. The pain of discrimination is made abundantly clear through Myers's forceful, often bitter words. The pride and determination of the people of Harlem are also demonstrated, as is their at times overwhelming despair. The bold collage and ink drawings complement the text well. Although the book paints a vibrant picture of the area and its residents, it is difficult to imagine its proposed audience. Many young people will not be able to grasp the subtleties and imagery of the poem or understand its frequent cultural references. The artwork is fresh and eye-catching, but it, too, is sophisticated. Overall, this is an arresting and heartfelt tribute to a well-known, but little understood, community that may take a bit of effort to sell.?Melissa Hudak, North Suburban District Library, Roscoe, IL
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Parents' Choice®
Walter Dean Meyers, a famous children's book writer, describes the home "town" of many of his peers. His son, Christopher, illustrates the book. A Parents' Choice Approval. (Parents' Choice, 1999)
Gr. 6^-12. The two Myerses--author and artist, father and son--celebrate Harlem, which they perceive both as a city and a "promise of a better life," in quite different but wonderfully complementary ways. The author views Harlem--where he grew up--as a symbol of African American aspiration; the artist shares a more concrete city composed of "colors loud enough to be heard." In a text that is as much song as poem, the author offers his impressionistic appreciation for a culture that is predominantly music-based, with its roots in "calls and songs and shouts" "first heard in the villages of Ghana/Mali/Senegal." In his hotly vibrant ink, gouache, and collage images, the artist shows us the textures of the city streets, the colors of "sun yellow shirts on burnt umber bodies," and even, it seems, the sounds the words themselves evoke. The very look of metaphorical moments is well served by the text, but it is Harlem as a visual experience that YAs will return to again and again, to admire and wonder at what is realized with truly extraordinary grace and power by this young artist of such wonderful promise. Michael Cart
From Kirkus Reviews
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+) -- Copyright ©1996, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
Card catalog description
A poem celebrating the people, sights, and sounds of Harlem.
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