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Pitch Black

Overview

"[Landowne and Horton] collaborate here to bring Horton's story of perseverance and hope to print, and the fluid black-and-white sequential panels tell it well. The horrors attendant on homelessness are not sugarcoated, and the language is as raw and gritty as one might expect. Powerful."?Kirkus Reviews

On the subway, do ever notice that people are always looking, but they only see what they want to? Things can be sitting right in front of them...

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Overview

"[Landowne and Horton] collaborate here to bring Horton's story of perseverance and hope to print, and the fluid black-and-white sequential panels tell it well. The horrors attendant on homelessness are not sugarcoated, and the language is as raw and gritty as one might expect. Powerful."—Kirkus Reviews

On the subway, do ever notice that people are always looking, but they only see what they want to? Things can be sitting right in front of them and still they can’t see it.

That’s your guide Anthony speaking. He’ll show you how he lives in the tunnels underneath the New York City subway system—that is, if you’ll let him. Which is exactly what Youme decided she would do one afternoon when she and Anthony began a conversation in the subway about art. It turns out that both Youme and Anthony Horton are artists. While part of Youme’s art is listening long and hard to the stories of the people she meets, part of Anthony’s is making art out of what most people won’t even look at. Thus began a unique collaboration and conversation between these two artists over the next year, which culminated in Anthony’s biography, the graphic novel Pitch Black. With art and words from both of them, they map out Anthony’s world—a tough one from many perspectives, startling and undoing from others, but from Anthony’s point of view, a life lived as art.

Youme Landowne (known as Youme) is a painter and book artist who thrives in the context of public art. She studied cross-cultural communication through art at the New School for Social Research and Friends World College. She has interned in public schools and has been a student at the Friends World College at the Nairobi and Kyoto campuses. Youme has lived in and learned from the United States, Kenya, Japan, Haiti, Laos, and Cuba. She currently lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Anthony Horton lived most of his life as a homeless artist, surviving and creating in the secret underground tributaries of the NYC subway system. On February 5, 2012 Anthony died in a fire in an abandoned subway room under the city. "Mr. Horton found solace in the blackness of the tunnels. He made the subway the subject of his canvases, the muse for a graphic novel that he co-wrote, and the place he called home for the better part of his adult life, even when he had other places to stay." —New York Times, Feb. 6, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"In the four years that Youme Landowne, a Brooklyn artist, has known Anthony Horton, a homeless man who used to spend most of his nights underground, in nooks and crannies wedged around subway tunnels, [she has] learned several basic rules for subterranean life. The rules are spelled out in a spare, affecting book of illustrations…The book details the filthy and often frightening conditions in the subway tunnels and introduces the readers to a handful of colorful characters, though its focus is on the two main characters’ friendship and collaboration."—New York Times

"I sat right down and read through [Pitch Black]... I found it immediately engaging and also interesting in the respect that at first you think it's about homelessness then, as you read on, perhaps about race and, finally, you discover that it reaches for something beyond those thorny and somewhat shopworn subjects; the simple and pure light of hope." —Lee Stringer

"The two artists [began] a collaboration that ends in this beautiful, gritty biography. Both Youme and Anthony contributed text and art to the book–their black and gray watercolors are tender and raw, their words spare and poetic. This book’s unflinching look at homelessness and the ability to find hope and inspiration in the dark will appeal greatly to teens."—School Library Journal

"Artist and writer Youme Landowne was standing on a New York City subway platform in 2005 when a black man standing nearby came over to talk to her…They two not only came to know each other as fellow artists and friends but have collaborated on Pitch Black: Don’t Be Skerd, a children’s book released this past fall by Cincos Puntos Press that tells the story of their friendship and Horton’s life as homeless man living and drawing in the subway." —Publisher's Weekly Comics Week

"Muralist and book artist Landowne met Horton shortly after the release of her 2004 picture book Selavi; the two collaborate here to bring Horton's story of perseverance and hope to print, and the fluid black-and-white sequential panels tell it well. The horrors attendant on homelessness are not sugarcoated, and the language is as raw and gritty as one might expect. Powerful."—Kirkus Reviews

"Pitch Black could serve as a tool for educators when approaching the difficult subjects of homelessness and cultural differences (the publisher would like to place it in school libraries to make it accessible to young readers), but it is likely to be most appreciated by adults for its thoughtful and forthright handling of the material." —Brooklyn Daily Eagle

"Many lives of rejection, despair, survival, and hope live underground beneath the drawings just as Horton lived underground in New York subway tunnels…We want to know more about Horton, but like peering down a dark tunnel, we only catch glimpses. For academic and high school libraries, and teen as well as adult collections in public libraries."—Library Journal

"This short, collaborative graphic novel introduces teens to a life unheard of by most…The artwork done in black, white, and gray watercolor tones is realistic and sparse with subway details illustrating a wide range of multicultural characters riding the subway." —Voya

Children's Literature - Uma Krishnaswami
Drawn in eye-catching shades of gray, white and the titular pitch black, this is the true story of a chance encounter between two artists riding the New York subway, one of whom relates his tale of having lived in the tunnels beneath. What begins as a slice of life, a conversation on the train, cuts away to a story that would remain largely invisible, were it not for this book. The rhythms echo the jostle and, undeniably, the pitch of a train in motion. Even the landscape format of this slender book is designed to keep that conversation moving restlessly forward in the reader's mind, a narrow visual window into a troubled and troubling urban world. The words are mostly Horton's, the pictures collaborative in places. "I didn't know anything and the whole world knew it," says the text on one page, framed by a face whose vulnerability is evident against the cityscape beyond. The scenes in the tunnels are progressively frightening, even when contextualized as the rules by which Horton learned to survive. The environmental print on station walls and within the trains carries its own messages, from the graffiti on the lips of a face on a poster that sets off the inciting incident in the book, to the subtitle that shows up in the penultimate spread. Every image seems precisely placed. The charcoal tunnel drawings that form the endpapers spiral the story off the pages and into life, a trajectory in direct opposition to the way this book came to be. An interesting, multi-layered work. Reviewer: Uma Krishnaswami
Library Journal

"Just cause you can't see, don't mean ain't nothing there" could be as true for this graphic novel as it is for Horton's philosophy. Many lives of rejection, despair, survival, and hope live underground beneath the drawings just as Horton lived underground in New York subway tunnels. Landowne was admiring some graffiti and waiting for the Seventh Avenue line when Horton opened a conversation. When the train came, they rode up and downtown a few times, telling stories and swapping art. Horton lived "six stories below the city" and took Landowne down for a tour. This spare but rich gray-and-black graphic novel about his life draws on both of their words and art. Growing up rejected by parents and then foster care, Horton ended up on the streets and then in the hell of the city's shelters. Eventually, he escaped into the subway tunnels and found mentors and a life where "anything you need can be found in the garbage," but where rats, safety, and staying dry are daily concerns. We want to know more about Horton, but like peering down a dark tunnel, we only catch glimpses. How did he learn to read and draw? What art did he first show Landowne? Landowne wrote previously about street children in Sélavi, That Is Life: A Haitian Story of Hope. For academic and high school libraries, and teen as well as adult collections in public libraries.
—Martha Cornog

School Library Journal

Gr 8 Up

After meeting on a subway platform in New York City, Landowne and Horton share a conversation about art and life while riding uptown and downtown. Youme listens carefully as Anthony tells his story of living on the streets after being abandoned by his adoptive family. At first he stayed at a homeless shelter where he witnessed, "things no kid should ever see." He discovered a city below the city when one day the police chased him into a subway tunnel. In these dark passageways, Anthony built a makeshift home and found a canvas for his artwork. After showing Youme his life six stories below the city, the two artists begin a collaboration that ends in this beautiful, gritty biography. Both Youme and Anthony contributed text and art to the book-their black and gray watercolors are tender and raw, their words spare and poetic. This book's unflinching look at homelessness and the ability to find hope and inspiration in the dark will appeal greatly to teens.-Lauren Anduri, Brooklyn Public Library, NY

Kirkus Reviews

A white, female artist looking at subway posters meets an African-American man, and they strike up a conversation about life and art as they ride the subway up and down the line. He tells her the story of his life: He was given up for adoption as a baby, but his adopted family didn't want him and he found himself on the streets, which, although harsh, were preferable to the shelters. "That is where the real pain started. People died there every day. And every day they came back." Sleeping on subways lasted until the cops chased him into the tunnels, where he found a whole new way of life. Muralist and book artist Landowne met Horton shortly after the release of her 2004 picture book Selavi; the two collaborate here to bring Horton's story of perseverance and hope to print, and the fluid black-and-white sequential panels tell it well. The horrors attendant on homelessness are not sugarcoated, and the language is as raw and gritty as one might expect. Powerful. (Graphic memoir. YA)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781933693064
  • Publisher: Cinco Puntos Press
  • Publication date: 9/1/2007
  • Pages: 40
  • Sales rank: 843,908
  • Product dimensions: 11.20 (w) x 6.20 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author


Mali Under the Night Sky is Youme's third book. Her first book--Selavi, A Haitian Story of Hope--won the Jane Adams Peace Award in 2005. The American Library Association chose her next book--a graphic novel called Pitch Black--as a Top Ten Graphic Novel for Teens in 2009. Born in 1968, Anthony Horton is a homeless artist who lives underneath New York City. His work can be seen along the tunnel walls in the darkest parts of the transit system.
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