Poetry for Young People: African American Poetry

Overview

The newest addition to the acclaimed Poetry for Young People series shines a light on the power and beauty of African-American verse. Co-editors Arnold Rampersad and Marcellus Blount?both towering figures in literary criticism?have put together an impressive anthology that will open up a world of wonderful word images for children. The classic poems come from some of the most influential and celebrated African-American writers in history, ...
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Overview

The newest addition to the acclaimed Poetry for Young People series shines a light on the power and beauty of African-American verse. Co-editors Arnold Rampersad and Marcellus Blount—both towering figures in literary criticism—have put together an impressive anthology that will open up a world of wonderful word images for children. The classic poems come from some of the most influential and celebrated African-American writers in history, including Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, Countee Cullen, Lucille Clifton, and James Baldwin.
 
Helpful and generous annotations, a lively introduction, and beautiful illustrations by Karen Barbour make this the ideal book to introduce young readers to the marvels of poetry.
 
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This addition to the Poetry for Young People series compiles poems by African-American writers, beginning with Phillis Wheatley in the 18th century and continuing through Harlem Renaissance writers and poets still writing today. Barbour combines collage, watercolor, and ink in her stylized images, which communicate gracefully with the poems. For Paul Laurence Dunbar’s “We Wear the Mask,” Barbour offers a solemn seated figure holding a smiling mask at knee level. She creates a celestial canvas of silver starbursts for James Weldon Johnson’s “The Creation,” and for Nikki Giovanni’s blissful “Winter Poem,” she shows the graceful, oblong face of a woman surrounded by snowflakes. Rampersad and Blount make the material accessible to readers by including vocabulary definitions, historical context, and thoughtful interpretations. Ages 8–up. (Jan.)
From the Publisher
“From Phillis Wheatley's 'On Being Brought from Africa to America' to Maya Angelou's 'Caged Bird' and Langston Hughes' 'My People,' the 34 poems in this large, handsome volume in the Poetry for Young People series introduces readers to great African American poets over the last 200 years. In a long introduction, Rampersad provides an excellent overview that weaves together historical details with examples from individual poems. On each following spread, 'contextual notes' with a brief biography accompany each poem. The soft-toned mixed-media artwork includes many city and rural scenes as well as stylized figures whose expressive body language captures the mood of the poems. In fact, the illustrations and sophisticated commentary will appeal to adults, too. A strong title for talking about in the classroom and at home.” —Booklist
 
"Slim and handsome, this beautifully constructed collection introduces 27 poets from the days of Phillis Wheatley to well-established poets writing in the 21st century. A four-page introduction outlines historical periods and influences. Presented chronologically, the entries begin with a paragraph describing the poet's life and work. Paul Laurence Dunbar, Countee Cullen, Langston Hughes, Lucille Clifton, Maya Angelou, and others are joined by George Moses Horton, Mae V. Cowdery, Carolyn M. Rodgers, and others. A small glossary appears at the end of each poem. Barbour mixes a bit of collage with watercolor in spare drawings that meld folk and contemporary graphic elements. Stylized human figures are elongated and flat, most with large eyes but distinctive in character. They appear in side panels, vignettes, or full pages that are sometimes washed in soft color and other times set on white with no background. This elegant book nicely melds an overview of African American history, an introduction to these notable writers, and a bit of explanation of some poetry forms. It offers many uses in classrooms and libraries and is likely to be treasured by teens and adults perhaps even more than older children. Though only one or two selections represent the work of each poet, readers will find this a rich compendium in the inviting guise of a picture book.” —School Library Journal
 
“A sampler worth sampling . .  . an outstanding introductory overview . . . at least as valuable for its editorial additions as its lyric contents.” —Kirkus Reviews

 
 

Praise for the Series:
 
“[S]atisfies in every way.”--School Library Journal

“Nothing short of breathtaking.”--Parents Magazine

“[T]he most ambitious attempt to bring poetry to children. . .”--Los Angeles Times

School Library Journal
Gr 5 Up—Slim and handsome, this beautifully constructed collection introduces 27 poets from the days of Phillis Wheatley to well-established poets writing in the 21st century. A four-page introduction outlines historical periods and influences. Presented chronologically, the entries begin with a paragraph describing the poet's life and work. Paul Laurence Dunbar, Countee Cullen, Langston Hughes, Lucille Clifton, Maya Angelou, and others are joined by George Moses Horton, Mae V. Cowdery, Carolyn M. Rodgers, and others. A small glossary appears at the end of each poem. Barbour mixes a bit of collage with watercolor in spare drawings that meld folk and contemporary graphic elements. Stylized human figures are elongated and flat, most with large eyes but distinctive in character. They appear in side panels, vignettes, or full pages that are sometimes washed in soft color and other times set on white with no background. This elegant book nicely melds an overview of African American history, an introduction to these notable writers, and a bit of explanation of some poetry forms. It offers many uses in classrooms and libraries and is likely to be treasured by teens and adults perhaps even more than older children. Though only one or two selections represent the work of each poet, readers will find this a rich compendium in the inviting guise of a picture book.—Margaret Bush, Simmons College, Boston
Kirkus Reviews
A sampler worth sampling, despite pallid illustrations and a roster entirely made up of dead or veteran poets. Kitted out—as usual for volumes in the Poetry for Young People series—with biographical headers and an outstanding introductory overview, the 33 short selections follow a generally chronological course. Atypically, the editors steer largely clear of explicit racial or religious themes in their selections. Phillis Wheatley's pointed "Remember, Christians, Negros, black as Cain, / May be refin'd, and join th' angelic train," and James Weldon Johnson's "The Creation" stand as exceptions. Along with contributions from James Baldwin and Richard Wright (both better known for their prose), notable additions to the standard African-American poetic canon include 19th-century writers George Moses Horton and Frances Ellen Watkins Harper. More-recent meditations from Melvin Dixon (b. 1950) and Elizabeth Alexander (b. 1962) also help to freshen up the collection. Sadly, what vivacity these poems retain is sucked dry by Barbour's monotonous successions of sad, big-eyed faces and drably colored collages. Well-intentioned, and at least as valuable for its editorial additions as its lyric contents. (index) (Poetry. 10-13)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781402716898
  • Publisher: Sterling Children's Books
  • Publication date: 1/1/2013
  • Series: Poetry for Young People Series
  • Pages: 48
  • Sales rank: 258,079
  • Age range: 8 years
  • Product dimensions: 8.40 (w) x 10.10 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Arnold Rampersad is the author of the widely acclaimed two-volume biography The Life of Langston Hughes as well as Days of Grace: A Memoir, co-authored with Arthur Ashe, and Jackie Robinson: A Biography. He has also edited several books, among them The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes (with David Roessel). He is professor of English and Senior Associate Dean at Stanford University, an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the American Philosophical Society, and a recipient of a MacArthur Foundation fellowship.
 
Marcellus Blount lives in New York City and is Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. He has published essays in PMLA, Callaloo, American Literary History, and Southern Review. He co-edited Representing Black Men with George Cunningham. His first study was entitled "In a Broken Tongue: Rediscovering African-American Poetry,"  and his current project is entitled Listening for My Name: African-American Men and the Politics of Friendship.

Karen Barbour has created illustrations for the New York Times and other magazines and newspapers. She has also written and illustrated several children's books, including Mr. Williams, which School Library Journal praised in a starred review: “The beauty of this book comes from the synergy of the spare narrative and rich artwork. The contrast makes each one more compelling; together they are powerful. [An] exquisite piece of oral history.” Karen lives in Inverness, CA. See more of her work at karenbarbour.com.

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