Shange, Ntozake. Ellington Was Not a Street. Illustrated by Kadir Nelson. Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2004. 40 pages. $17.99 ISBN-13: 978-0689828843
A poem about black men who changed the world told by a little girl who meets them at a party.
Age Range: 5-14
4 out 5 for quality, 4 out of 5 for popularity.
Coretta Scott King Book Award for Illustrator, 2005
The book starts out with a painting of a street sign for Ellington St., under which all the people walk unaware. A young woman is telling of her memory being a little girl in a house through which the great black men of an era came and talked and played and sang. In each picture the little girl in a blue dress looks on while the stately, handsome men laugh and talk overhead. The attendants to the party include W.E.B. Dubois, Dizzy Gillespie and Duke Ellington. The back pages give brief biographies 8 of these men, which is helpful since they are named in the text and shown together in a large family style portrait at the end. The illustrations look stylized and rich, all the people expressive and beautiful as they attend the party in the little girl’s home. There are lovely ties to the girl as a tiny child and a young woman in braids telling a story of her past. The book asks us to remember these men as world changers, not past memories. She wants us to realize the importance of their effect on the world, on each other, and on the children who grew up in their midst. The poem flows beautifully and is a wonderful testament to this rich black history. Looking through it for the first time, I was uninterested, but every time I looked through again I found more and more gems, and found more beauty in the pictures. Although the poem the first time through was a little hard to understand and the references to the men were vague, the biographies in the back helped considerably. This book would be a hard sell were it not for its award.
My People by Langston Hughes, Illustrated by Charles R Smith Jr.
In Daddy’s Arms I Am Tall: African Americans celebrating fathers by Javaka Steptoe
Hand in Hand: Ten black men who changed America by Andrea Pinkney and Brian Pinkney
- How does the artist make this book about people from history into a book that feels like a family?
- How does the little girl feel about all these people in her home?
Biography of Ntozake Shange from the poetry foundation http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/ntozake-shange
Kadir Nelson Website http://www.kadirnelson.com/
Video Interview with Kadir Nelson
Bryan, Ashley. Let it Shine. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2007. 40 pages. $16.99 ISBN-13: 978-0689847325
Coloful illustrations are given to 3 traditional spirituals including “This Little Light of Mine”.
Art and Music
Age Range: 3-8
4 out of 5 for quality, 2 out of 5 for popularity.
Coretta Scott King Award, 2008
ALA Notable Children’s Books, 2008
Ashley Bryan’s art is bright and bold and colorful. The images are vibrant and stylized collages. The multicolored children dance across the page to songs that are universally sung in Sunday Schools, yet these presentations make them more, giving the songs new life and a fresh perspective. In “This Little Light of Mine” the children each hold a light: flashlights, fireworks, candles, Christmas lights, and flowers. They travel in planes, cars, bikes, and roller skates to spread their light all over. “When the Saints Go Marching In” has crowds of people, each clearly from a stencil, but made unique in color and detail. This song is full of brightly colored flowers, kaleidoscopes of bright shapes. “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” starts with a scene of 8 different cultural buildings in the same collage of bright paper: an igloo, a cathedral, two tepees, three pyramids. The hands, patterned and woven are in each picture, holding people, babies, and lands; protecting and supporting the life filled images. The back of the book contains the musical notations for all three songs. It also contains a note about the historical context of spirituals. Bryan believes in the power of oral storytelling and songs to pass on the history of black people. His books are so beautiful and full of live and vibrancy and rhythm and playfulness. This collage style is stunning, woven together in unique patterns and shapes. I love this book, and picked it up for the bright cover, to find the inside even more impressive.
The Ant and the Grasshopper by Rebecca Emberly
Hip Hop Speaks to Children: A celebration of poetry with a beat. Edited by Nikki Giovanni
He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands by Kadir Nelson
- Why does the illustrator make these pictures so bright? How does that make you feel about the song?
- How do you think he made these pictures?
Do you like songs? How many do you know? Here is a book with beautiful pictures along with the songs you may know.
Illustrator Biography from the National center for Children’s Illustrated Literature.
Interview with author