Lullaby (For a Black Mother)

Lullaby (For a Black Mother)

by Langston Hughes, Sean Qualls
     
 

“My little dark baby, / My little earth-thing, / My little love-one, / What shall I sing / For your lullaby?" With a few simple words as smooth as a song, the poet Langston Hughes celebrates the love between an African American mother and her baby. The award-winning illustrator Sean Qualls’s painted and collaged artwork captures universally powerful

Overview

“My little dark baby, / My little earth-thing, / My little love-one, / What shall I sing / For your lullaby?" With a few simple words as smooth as a song, the poet Langston Hughes celebrates the love between an African American mother and her baby. The award-winning illustrator Sean Qualls’s painted and collaged artwork captures universally powerful maternal moments with tenderness and whimsy. In the end, readers will find a rare photo of baby Hughes and his mother, a biographical note, further reading, and the complete lullaby. Like little love-ones, this beautiful book is a treasure.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
“My little dark baby,/ My little earth-thing,/ My little love-one,/ What shall I sing/ For your lullaby?” Hughes wrote this poem more than 80 years ago, but its playful language and informal lines sound startlingly fresh and modern. The poem’s images of night and innocence are well suited for a picture book, too. Qualls (Freedom Song) keeps his artwork simple, painting a series of spreads that hew closely to the words. He renders “A necklace of stars” with a bird flying around mother and child, leaving a trail of stars around the woman’s neck. “Moon,/ Moon,/ Great diamond moon” shows the white-gowned, long-haired mother floating among the clouds, holding her son up so he can see the shining disk in a dark, gray-blue sky. Swirls of grass and celestial orbs embellish daytime scenes, while the lights of tall buildings join with the stars above to form a backdrop for several nocturnal spreads. An afterword describes Hughes’s career. A quiet but welcome introduction to the writer’s work for the very young. Ages 3–8. Illustrator’s agent: Rebecca Sherman, Writers. House. (Mar.)
From the Publisher

"Hughes' classic lullaby gets a loving lift with Quall's graceful artwork."
Booklist

"A wonderful celebration of both love and poetry."
School Library Journal

"A quiet but welcome introduction to the writer's work for the very young."
Publishers Weekly

"Share with little ones needing a gentle lullaby."
Kirkus

"Not all poems make for great picture book texts, but this one has just the right cadence and all the right line breaks for smooth page turns, especially when accompanied by Qualls's superb art showing the deep bond between a mother and her baby at bedtime."
Horn Book

Children's Literature - Lois Rubin Gross
There are picture books, and then there is readable art. This rendition of an exquisitely spare poem, originally published in Hughes' The Dream Keeper and Other Poems, falls into the category of art. The poem is classically beautiful and describes a dark, night sky ablaze with the moon and stars, a gift from a mother to her African American child. Illustrator Sean Qualls has done a perfect job of wrapping his illustration around the poem and incorporating the music of the words into every picture; for example, the round-faced baby rides a musical staff through the night sky while there is a "necklace of stars" wrap around the mother's neck. The illustrations combine drawings with collage. Mother's night dress seems to be made of a scrap of real lace, while newspaper print shows through in other pictures throughout the book. Mother and child fly through the sky together, visiting the moon and stars in dusky-colored clouds of lavender and blue. The mother and child are, of course, African American since the poet references a "dark baby, night black baby" and the title is written "For a Black Mother," but I cannot imagine that this wouldn't be a wonderful bedtime story for children of every race. It is the soothing sound of the words and the lyrical cadence of the poem that will lull a child—any child—into dreamland. Backmatter includes a short biography of the poet, highlighting the limited but loving time Hughes spent with his own mother. Collections of Hughes' other poetry are suggested for further reading. This book is highly recommended for purchase. Reviewer: Lois Rubin Gross
School Library Journal
PreS—Presented for the first time as a full-length picture book, Hughes's lyrical poem comes to life through Qualls's lush collage-style illustration. The poem, originally part of The Dream Keeper and Other Poems (Knopf, 1932), celebrates the love between a mother and her child and the quiet rituals of putting a baby to bed. The art, in muted tones of purple and blue, provides a dreamlike backdrop to the touching words. At the end of the book, the lullaby is printed on one page so that readers can see it in its original format, thereby changing the reading experience slightly. A "Note About the Poet" gives context for the poem and a brief insight into Hughes's life and inspirations (including a discussion of how this particular poem might have been born of loneliness, thereby giving it a more melancholy and poignant subtext). A wonderful celebration of both love and poetry.—Rita Meade, Brooklyn Public Library, NY
Kirkus Reviews
An urban setting with a calming palette complements the soothing, loving tone of Hughes' poem celebrating an African-American mother and her baby. The rhythmic language slowly unfolds with only a line or two per spread. Qualls' illustrations in acrylic, pencil and collage extend the rich imagery of the text with fantastical qualities that young ones can appreciate. "A necklace of stars" shows mother swinging her baby through a sparkling, celestial, deep purple sky softened with rounded clouds in blues, pinks and grays. The white "[g]reat diamond moon" leads to the next spread, in which mama and child, in a close-up silhouette, "[kiss] the night" amid a burst of stars and with a wavy line of musical notes. This "sleep-song lullaby" is ephemeral, as any sweet song is, but the just-the-right-length note at the end satisfyingly delivers biographical information about the famous poet, while a photo of Hughes as a baby with his mother and the poem's full text provide further context. This appealing, quiet offering would serve as an appropriate introduction to poetry for new readers since the font is big and much of the vocabulary repeats. Share with little ones needing a gentle lullaby. (note, further reading) (Picture book/poetry. 2-6)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780547362656
Publisher:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
03/19/2013
Pages:
32
Sales rank:
699,060
Product dimensions:
9.10(w) x 10.10(h) x 0.40(d)
Age Range:
4 - 7 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"Hughes' classic lullaby gets a loving lift with Quall's graceful artwork."
Booklist

"A wonderful celebration of both love and poetry."
School Library Journal

Meet the Author


Langston Hughes penned many well-known poems, such as "The Negro Speaks of Rivers," "I, Too, Sing America," and "The Dream Keeper." A renowned contributor to New York City's Harlem Renaissance, he died in 1967.

Sean Qualls received a Coretta Scott King Honor award for his illustrations in Before John Was a Jazz Giant by Carole Boston Weatherford, and has published many other acclaimed books. He lives in Brooklyn, New York, with his family. Visit his website at www.seanqualls.com.

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