Love to Langstonby Tony Medina, R. Gregory Christie
This inspiring biography on Langston Hughes celebrates his life through poetry.
Publishers WeeklyMedina's (DeShawn Days) introduction states that his book "represents one Harlem poet's homage to another," and this compilation exudes affection for the Harlem Renaissance muse. The events of Langston Hughes's life inspire 14 impressionistic, free-verse poems. Some entries might be difficult for youngsters to interpret without referring to the author's concluding notes, which succinctly explain the relevance of each poem. In "First Grade," for instance, the narrator laments that "The teacher makes me sit in the corner in the last row far away from the other kids" and "tells one kid not to eat licorice or he'll turn black like me." The notes explain that when Hughes attended first grade in Topeka, Kans., in 1907, his teacher "took out her racist attitudes on Langston." Hughes's love of books, his disdain for his father and the inspiration he gleaned from Harlem and from jazz are among the topics of subsequent poems. Though Medina incorporates some of Hughes's style (refrains such as "Libraries/ are a special place/ for me") and layout, few of the poems build to an emotional climax. The content of the poems outweighs its impact. Still, Medina's solid research and accessible presentation may well lead readers to the work of Hughes himself. Christie contributes stylized acrylics, but unlike his artwork in Only Passing Through, the paintings here do not reflect the subject's many moods. A standout is the spread "Leaving Harlem for Africa," which shows the poet bound for unexplored shores. Ages 6-up. (Feb.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
School Library JournalGr 3-6-In this collection of original poems, Medina honors the groundbreaking poet of the Harlem Renaissance. The story of Hughes's life unfolds from his early childhood ("Little Boy Blues") to his later days ("Sometimes Life Ain't Always a Hoot"). The twists that the poet's life took, the people (both good and bad) whom he met, and the important places he visited are vividly brought to life. Some of the poems are based on the subject's own work; "Grandma's Stories," for example, is modeled on his "Aunt Sue's Stories." Medina's words stand on their own while they honor the tradition established by Hughes. Detailed notes tell the story behind each selection. Christie's full-page, vibrant illustrations with broad expanses of bold, flat colors and stylized figures invite readers into the world of sharecroppers, ocean liners, and libraries. This book has many uses: pair it with Floyd Cooper's Coming Home (Philomel, 1994) to introduce the poet. Or, combine it with J. Patrick Lewis's Freedom Like Sunlight (Creative, 2000) or Jacob Lawrence's Harriet and the Promised Land (S & S, 1993) for a unit on poetic biographies. A stunning collaboration.-Bina Williams, Bridgeport Public Library, CT Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus ReviewsA biography in verse pays homage to the life and art of Langston Hughes. "Little Boy Blues," "First Grade," and "Jim Crow Row" tell of Hughes's childhood experiences with racism. "Grandma's Stories" are about his ancestors' courage in the days of slavery. His painful relationship with his father is told in "I Do Not Like My Father Much." As the poems progress, they delve deeper into Hughes's love of "endless, beautiful words," his determination to discover "other voices and places," and his joy in being part of the creative life that he finds among his people in Harlem, "the capital of my world." All of the poems are in the first person, using Langston's voice. Several of Medina's poems directly and deliberately echo Hughes's own work. "Grandma's Stories" here corresponds with Hughes's "Aunt Sue's Stories," while Medina's "Sometimes Life Ain't Always a Hoot" is the offspring of the famous "Mother to Son." The poems are presented in chronological order, representing the stages of the poet's life. They cannot and are not meant to be a complete biography. However, Medina's introduction and detailed, biographical endnotes help to fill in some of the gaps. The whole work is brought to life by Christie's remarkable, compelling illustrations, which perfectly complement each poem in content and mood. Christie also pays subtle homage to the African-American artists who have gone before him by incorporating hints of the styles of Horace Pippin and Jacob Lawrence in his illustrations. This is a treasure to be read and reread-a splendid work. (Poetry. 8-12)
- Lee & Low Books, Inc.
- Publication date:
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- Product dimensions:
- 8.25(w) x 10.75(h) x 1.00(d)
- Age Range:
- 8 Years
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