The Block

The Block

by Langston Hughes, Daisy Murray Voigt, Romare Bearden, Romare Bearden

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Bearden's (1911-1988) extraordinary six-panel collage The Block, now housed at New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art, is the raison d'etre of this elegant book, its selection of Hughes's poems notwithstanding. Details of Bearden's multi-layered work, which jazzily recreate the life of a busy Harlem block, are paired with soulful poems about Harlem or the African American experience. The poems are not always Hughes's best, but Bearden's art unmistakably captures the energy and pulsing rhythms of the street. In his collages black angels hover above a coffin; two haunting faces stare from a window; tiny figures dance with abandon in front of a barber shop. Both text and art are shown to advantage by the clean, angular design, which complements the tone and mood of the book as a whole. Page-long biographical sketches of Bearden and Hughes appear at the end, and are implicitly addressed to adult readers. Perhaps more suitable as a coffee table book than a work for children, the volume's strength is in its ability to convey the vitality and inventiveness of Bearden's art. All ages. (Nov.)
Children's Literature - Andrea Brott
Sections of Rearden's six-panel collage, "The Block," form the backdrop for twelve Langston Hughes poems celebrating the vitality of the culture that spawned the Harlem Renaissance. This is definitely a book that adults will need (and want!) to read with their children; the longer poems, in particular, contain difficult language, some mature themes, and images that may have to be teased slowly out of the text. But there probably are few more rewarding uses of your time than working your way through this magnificent book together with your child. Hughes is one of the finest poets of this century; these selections give a clear sense of his ability to capture the joys and trials of urban life. Rearden's Harlem collages are beautiful, complex, and provocative.
School Library Journal
Gr 5 Up-These 12 poems coupled with images from a large, six-panel collage convey the complexity of the modern African American urban experience. Some celebrate the commonplace, even things that sometimes seem only glaring and ugly. The collage, created in 1971 and seen in its entirety on the title page, shows an evening street scene in Harlem. Faded black-and-white photographs and colored paper cut in angular shapes create an emotional piece, evoking feelings of struggle and joy, despair and hopefulness. In ``Juke Box Love Song,'' the narrator offers to ``Take the neon lights and make a crown'' for his beloved. The accompanying image shows a Romeo and Juliet variation, a boy leaning out an apartment window talking to a girl on the street below. To the left of them is a primitive, yet fairly traditional Annunciation scene, an example of the artist's highly original vision. In fact, one of the most compatible things about Hughes and Bearden is their spirituality. Most of the poem/picture pairings are successful, although one or two do not seem as well matched (the two children pictured with ``To Be Somebody'' look more resigned than aspiring, though that may be exactly the point). Hughes is an accessible poet whose work can be appreciated by adolescents. The art may be more complex and multilayered than the poems, while the book's layout and typefaces are playful, contemporary, and imaginative.-Lauralyn Persson, Wilmette Public Library, IL
Hazel Rochman
The title is from Bearden's 1971 picture of a city block, an exuberant six-panel collage that is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Thirteen poems by Hughes have been matched with pieces of the collage: sometimes a poem is opposite one whole panel; sometimes the focus is just on a small visual detail. There's no attempt to make literal connections, but together words and pictures, and even topography, express the vitality and excitement of an urban neighborhood. As Bill Cosby says in his introduction, Bearden's cinematic technique takes us through the public life of barber shop, sidewalk music, and storefront church. There are also solitary moments: in one double-page spread, the pages are black, with just one small frame from the collage showing a man alone on the back steps of a building; opposite is Hughes' poem that begins "Late last night I / Set on my steps and cried." On another page, a small, tight window frame encloses two yearning faces looking out from behind a half-drawn shade. At the end of the book are brief biographies of Bearden and Hughes that emphasize their Harlem roots. YAs open to multimedia presentations will enjoy the pulsing combination.

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Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
9.10(w) x 12.36(h) x 0.42(d)
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

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