Tag: Harlem Renaissance

One Last Word by Nikki Grimes

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One Last Word: Wisdom from the Harlem Renaissance by Nikki Grimes (InfoSoup)

Released January 3, 2017.

Master poet Grimes has created a book of poetry that celebrates the poets from the Harlem Renaissance who influenced her. Through her amazing skill, she pays homage to their original poems by creating her own from their words. Using a form called Golden Shovel, she takes lines from their poems and uses them as the final words in the lines of her poems. Both the Harlem Renaissance poetry and Grimes’ speak to the experience of African Americans and for Grimes, African American children and teens. These are poems about difficulties, about racism, about hate and about love.

As I read these poems, I realized over and over again how very skilled Grimes is. It is most stunning when you remember the form she is using, because her poetry flows and dances as if entirely unrestricted. Still, the bold words tie the two poems together and one remembers the strict form she is using and the grace with which she handles it. Grimes speaks directly to children and teens of color in this book, making sure they see themselves and their experiences on the page. That they see the racism, the bullying and the dangers around them. She also makes sure though that they see a strong community, voices to raise in protest and the familial love around them.

The book is beautifully designed with each page washed with yellows and sometimes lined in blue. It is illustrated by some of the top African-American children’s book illustrators working today. It is a stunning collection of art, filled with emotion, pain and endurance.

Masterful, skilled and very timely, this book of poetry elevates us all and sings to the skies that African-American children are valuable and vital in this world. Appropriate for ages 10-13.

Reviewed from ARC received from Bloomsbury.

Review: Harlem’s Little Blackbird by Renee Watson

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Harlem’s Little Blackbird: The Story of Florence Mills by Renee Watson, illustrated by Christian Robinson

This is a picture book biography of Florence Mills, a singer well-known during the Harlem Renaissance.  It follows her from her childhood as the daughter of former slaves in a tiny house in Washington, DC. where she was always singing and dancing.  She became known as a small girl with a big voice, but often faced racism and segregation when she was performing.  She quickly learned to use her voice for activism as well as song.  Florence became known not only across the nation but around the world for her voice.  She traveled internationally, and continued to be an activist and to give back to the poor.  Applauded for her singing, this book celebrates her good deeds just as much as her voice.

Watson writes a compelling story of a woman who was more than a beautiful songbird.  She fought back against the bigotry of her time and also gave back to the community she came from.  Watson distills Mills’ story into one that children can easily relate to.  It exposes the overt racism of a previous time and will give children much to discuss about how far our society has come and how much farther we have to go.

Robinson’s illustrations are done in cut-paper and collage.  They have a great texture to them, often showing a physical depth that is very appealing.  The colors are bright and vibrant, fitting colors for this equally vibrant woman.

A very successful picture book biography of a woman whose voice broke down barriers along with her good work.  Appropriate for ages 7-9.

Reviewed from copy received from Random House.