The Blacker the Berry: Poems
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The Blacker the Berry: Poems

by Joyce Carol Thomas, Floyd Cooper
     
 

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We are color struck
The way an artist strikes
His canvas with his brush of many hues

Look closely at these mirrors these palettes of skin
Each color is rich in its own right

Black is dazzling and distinctive, like toasted wheat berry bread; snowberries in the fall; rich, red cranberries; and the bronzed last leaves of

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Overview

We are color struck
The way an artist strikes
His canvas with his brush of many hues

Look closely at these mirrors these palettes of skin
Each color is rich in its own right

Black is dazzling and distinctive, like toasted wheat berry bread; snowberries in the fall; rich, red cranberries; and the bronzed last leaves of summer. In this lyrical and luminous collection, Coretta Scott King honorees Joyce Carol Thomas and Floyd Cooper celebrate these many shades of black beautifully.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Meagan Albright
This book is rich—rich in imagery and metaphors, rich in languid and lyrical text, rich in illustrations imbued with purple, black, brown and a myriad of other colors. The images, the carefully selected words, the symmetry and symbolism come together to create a beautiful and vivid collection of poems describing the many shades of black. This book, quiet yet intense, resonates with readers. Each poem, built around the many hues and types of berries, is worthy of standing on its own. Still, the full strength of the book comes from reading it in its entirety, with each poem providing a base for the next by adding depth and understanding to the text. This book is highly recommended for purchase for public libraries and school media centers. Teachers and librarians are sure to use it during February for Black History Month, but a book this good should be celebrated throughout the year. Reviewer: Meagan Albright
School Library Journal

Gr 1-4

The varieties of African-American ethnic heritage are often rendered invisible by the rigid construction of racial identity that insists on polarities. This collection of 12 poems makes the complexities of a layered heritage visible and the many skin shades celebrated. Read-aloud-sized spreads offer luminous artwork that complements the verses in which children speak of their various hues: "I am midnight and berries..." a child says in the title poem. In another selection, a boy recalls his Seminole grandmother who has given him the color of "red raspberries stirred into blackberries." In "Cranberry Red," a child asserts that "it's my Irish ancestors/Who reddened the Africa in my face," understanding that "When we measure who we are/We don't leave anybody out." The large illustrations match the lyrical poetry's emotional range. Cooper's method includes "pulling" the drawing out from a background of oil paint and glazes. With his subtractive method, he captures the joy of these children-the sparkle of an eye, the width of a grin, the lovely depths of their skin, and the light that radiates from within. This book complements titles that explore identity, such as Katie Kissinger's All the Colors We Are (Redleaf, 1994).-Teresa Pfeifer, Alfred Zanetti Montessori Magnet School, Springfield, MA

Kirkus Reviews
"What shade is human?" Thomas's evocative, colorful poetry seeks to answer that question with this celebration of the diversity of African-American children across the spectrum. From "Raspberry Black" to "Golden Goodness," Cooper's soft and realistic illustrations almost leap from the page, incorporating natural images from the text in their depiction of a gallery of beautiful, self-confident children. Difficult intraracial social issues related to skin color are handled with truth and respect. For instance, in the poem "Snowberries," a fair-skinned child speaks back to those who would question her identity: "The words cut deep down / Beyond the bone / Beneath my snowy skin / Deep down where no one can see / I bleed the �one drop of blood' / That makes Black me." On the page opposite, an auburn-haired girl smiles at the reader, eyes twinkling. An essential picture book that helps young children understand and appreciate differences in skin color. As the epigraph states so truthfully, "Colors, without black, / couldn't sparkle quite so bright." (Picture book/poetry. 5-10)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780060253752
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
07/01/2008
Pages:
32
Sales rank:
594,612
Product dimensions:
11.48(w) x 7.80(h) x 0.34(d)
Age Range:
4 - 8 Years

Meet the Author

Joyce Carol Thomas is an internationally renowned author who received the National Book Award for her first novel, Marked By Fire, and a Coretta Scott King Honor for The Blacker the Berry and for her first picture book, Brown Honey in Broomwheat Tea. Her picture book I Have Heard of a Land received a Coretta Scott King Honor and an IRA/CBC Teachers' Choice Award and was an ALA Notable Book. Her other titles include The Gospel Cinderella, Crowning Glory, Gingerbread Days, and A Gathering of Flowers. Ms. Thomas lives in Berkeley, California.

Floyd Cooper received a Coretta Scott King Award for his illustrations in The Blacker the Berry and a Coretta Scott King Honor for Brown Honey in Broomwheat Tea and I Have Heard of a Land. Born and raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Mr. Cooper received a degree in fine arts from the University of Oklahoma and, after graduating, worked as an artist for a major greeting card company. In 1984, he came to New York City to pursue a career as an illustrator of books, and he now lives in Easton, Pennsylvania, with his wife and children.

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