Exuberance and elegance in art and text tell this simple story of girls together. Williams's writing has a vibrant lyricism ("Sun just barely looking and everything quiet except for the birds. Air feel like if you fell into a trailer full of cotton; it's just that soft on your skin") as she follows five girls on an early-morning walk out of the Project to a nearby suburb, where they climb trees and adorn themselves with mag-nolia blossoms. The design choice of high-gloss paper and clean sans serif type effectively sets off the work of artist Synthia Saint James, who creates paintings that remind one of Matisse cutouts in their clear line and intense color (and, too, of the striking angular work of Jacob Lawrence). Although the youthful narrator speaks of her own "cheeks [that] dimple when I smile" and describes one of her friends as having "a grin make you grin with her, her teeth so white and straight," Saint James interprets these friends as five faceless girls in a variety of rich brown hues sporting neon bright shirts and pants against a periwinkle blue background. A tiny yellow stud in each ear of the narrator as the single embellishment in these resplendent illustrations heightens their bold simplicity.
Five friends-"we almost like stairsteps"-want to leave the Project and get away from little brothers. They go to a nearby suburb and find gingerbread houses and a fairytale forest. They climb trees with "...flowers not really white, more like pale butter or vanilla ice cream." It is not surprising to discover that the author of this lovely story of friendship is also a poet. Her descriptions are written in dialect, and have a beautiful poetic quality. The bright acrylic paintings of the five girls, the Project, and the surrounding neighborhoods by the award-winning artist perfectly complement the text. This book would make a wonderful addition to a multicultural classroom or the home library.
Children's Literature - Cheryl Peterson
K-Gr 4Five girls spend a summer morning climbing magnolia trees and just being together. Unfortunately, the language is self-conscious and does not flow. In addition, Saint Jamess graphic, collage-like paintings do not lend the feeling of unity implied by the narrative. Because the figures are faceless, their expressions are impossible to read; emotions can be inferred only by body language. When the narrator states my cheeks dimple when I smile, no happy, dimpled cheeks are visible. The book fails to capture the essence of friendship, giving readers only cutout figures and disappointing prose. Nikki Grimess Meet Danitra Brown (Lothrop, 1994) is a better and more engaging example of friendship among young girls.Martha Link, Louisville Free Public Library, KY Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
A paean to the simple joys of girlfriends takes flight in this vividly phrased and illustrated picture book. On a summer Saturday, five girls in "the Project" get together to find a little fun. The girls start drawing paper dolls at Hattie Jean's, who has a room of her own. ViLee wants to get out of the Project, afraid her mamma will make her take her baby brother along, so they end up walking, arms linked, to where they can climb trees. The narrator talks about some other activities, e.g., taking turns on Hattie Lee's bike, or collecting bottles for the recycler to earn money for a movie, or running errands for the neighbors. They end up climbing their favorite magnolia, and taking a blossom to Lois, the friend who couldn't get away, to put in her hair. Saint James's signature paintings are made of broad flat planes of color in bold, geometric shapes. The girls are clearly distinguished by their hair and skin tones, the narrator by her short hair and tiny gold stud earring. The marvelous closeness of girlfriends saturates the straightforward storyline, with a dialect from the inner city and a universal theme of escape, from parents and small siblings, just for awhile. (Picture book. 3-9) .