Black Magic

Overview

Black is a look, a taste, a speed, an emotion. It’s the surprising stripes on a zebra, the taste of dark chocolate, the scary, exciting feeling of going inside a tunnel, and a mother’s voice as her daughter falls asleep.

In this celebration of the African American spirit, Dinah Johnson and R. Gregory Christie paint a picture of “black” that is vivid, varied, and proud.

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Overview

Black is a look, a taste, a speed, an emotion. It’s the surprising stripes on a zebra, the taste of dark chocolate, the scary, exciting feeling of going inside a tunnel, and a mother’s voice as her daughter falls asleep.

In this celebration of the African American spirit, Dinah Johnson and R. Gregory Christie paint a picture of “black” that is vivid, varied, and proud.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“With bright, bold images and poetic phrases that capture a child's exuberance and unbound imagination, Johnson expresses feelings of pride and joy in unexpected ways. … You don't have to be black to be swept up by this "Magic."—San Francisco Chronicle
 
“While Johnson’s prose is crisp and definitive, Christie’s artwork takes the words and imaginatively whirls them in stylized, riotously colored pictures that will remind some of Maira Kalman’s work. The exuberance this child feels in exploring black in all its permutations can’t help but spill over to young listeners, who will have fun thinking up pieces of black magic in their own lives.”—Booklist, Starred Review
 
“This expressive book combines well-matched text and pictures to pay tribute to the myriad qualities of blackness. Buoyant yet reflective, Johnson’s (Hair Dance!) free-flowing verse presents an imaginative girl’s musings on the essence of black…With vibrant colors offsetting velvety black images, Christie’s (Bad News for Outlaws) acrylic gouache illustrations playfully tweak perspective and scale, echoing the verse’s energy and fluidity.”—Publishers Weekly
 
“These early literacy concepts are conveyed in short, snappy lines of text that make the book an outstanding choice for preschool storytimes. The African-American children in Christie’s illustrations have a variety of hairstyles and skin tones and are shown playing with children of other races. The bright acrylic colors capture the energy of childhood, and the artist’s bold, loose brushstrokes further underscore the dynamic nature of the text, and of the little girl who narrates it.”—School Library Journal
 
“‘My hundred black braids make a spiderweb around my head, / and Mama’s voice is black and sweet as I fall asleep.’ This emotionally rich sentence is representative of this winning celebration of blackness. Johnson successfully uses figurative language to describe basic concepts and more complex connections, such as using color to describe emotions. She effortlessly zigzags from the immensity of the sky to the comfortable warmth of a puppy. The illustrations are bright and vibrant and provide an excellent contrast to the actual color black, which appears throughout the book. …. Adults will find this book a great conversation starter with little ones.”—Kirkus Reviews

Publishers Weekly
If never quite reaching the realm of “magic,” this expressive book combines well-matched text and pictures to pay tribute to the myriad qualities of blackness. Buoyant yet reflective, Johnson’s (Hair Dance!) free-flowing verse presents an imaginative girl’s musings on the essence of black, which she sees as containing multitudinous, even oppositional, dimensions (“Black is big like a star-filled sky/ and tiny like the sparkle in my daddy’s eye/ when he hugs me with his strong black arms”). Most associations involve sensations, emotions, or sounds, but several focus on the tangible: “Black is silky like my puppy, Ebony./ Black is shiny like my brother’s new car” (which is, as it happens, red). The narrative also takes some fanciful leaps, as in “Black is majestic like a baobab tree that you can see/ if you go with me to Mali/ in my dream.” With vibrant colors offsetting velvety black images, Christie’s (Bad News for Outlaws) acrylic gouache illustrations playfully tweak perspective and scale, echoing the verse’s energy and fluidity. There are moments of pensiveness and uncertainty, but the overall atmosphere is of possibility and cheer. Ages 5–9. (Jan.)
School Library Journal
PreS-K—A smiling little girl with "a hundred black braids" that "make a spiderweb around my head" guides young readers through the world of magical possibilities found in the color black. For example, black can be loud, like "my best tap shoes making happy noise," or it can be "quiet like a butterfly." Such passages can help introduce toddlers to opposites. Moreover, the vivid descriptions of black will enrich children's vocabulary by introducing them to similes for this color. Black can be "delicious like chocolate," or "silky like my puppy, Ebony." These early literacy concepts are conveyed in short, snappy lines of text that make the book an outstanding choice for preschool storytimes. The African-American children in Christie's illustrations have a variety of hairstyles and skin tones and are shown playing with children of other races. The bright acrylic colors capture the energy of childhood, and the artist's bold, loose brushstrokes further underscore the dynamic nature of the text, and of the little girl who narrates it.—Mary Landrum, Lexington Public Library, KY
Kirkus Reviews
"My hundred black braids make a spiderweb around my head, / and Mama's voice is black and sweet as I fall asleep." This emotionally rich sentence is representative of this winning celebration of blackness. Johnson successfully uses figurative language to describe basic concepts and more complex connections, such as using color to describe emotions. She effortlessly zigzags from the immensity of the sky to the comfortable warmth of a puppy. The illustrations are bright and vibrant and provide an excellent contrast to the actual color black, which appears throughout the book. Christie is most successful at depicting the many shades of black. He portrays the chocolatey black of the main character's skin, the black notes on sheet music and everything in between. In portraying concepts, he expertly uses shades of black and accent colors to depict the mood or feeling. Adults will find this book a great conversation starter with little ones. (Picture book. 5-9)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780805078336
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
  • Publication date: 1/19/2010
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 5 - 9 Years
  • Product dimensions: 9.90 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 0.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Dinah Johnson has written several books for young readers including Hair Dance!, Quinnie Blue and Sunday Week. A professor of English literature at the University of South Carolina, Ms. Johnson lives with her daughter, Niani, in Columbia, South Carolina. www.dinahjohnson.com

R. Gregory Christie has illustrated many picture books, three of which won a Coretta Scott King Honor for Illustrator: The Palm of My Heart: Poetry by African American Children; Only Passing Through: The Story of Sojourner Truth; and Yesterday I Had the Blues. He lives in Brooklyn, New York. www.gas-art.com

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