Thomas (Brown Honey in Broomwheat Tea) pays homage to shouting, a form of holy dancing with African roots and commonly seen in African-American churches, with her evocative poetic picture book. A girl watches with awe and curiosity as her mother dons her fine dress, shoes and flowered hat, rendering her "ready for Sunday" at their church. Once the service begins, Mama is touched by the ghost that draws her into a fevered shouting spell replete with exclamations of "Yes," "Hallelujah" and "Amen" from the congregation. Later in the text, the same narrator, now a grown woman, draws a link between her Mama's joyful church expression and the ages-old dancing of her African ancestors. The author's lyrical writing brims with images, though the light plotting may prove confusing for younger readers. However, the free-flowing verse will whisk many away to a spiritual place. Making her picture book debut, accomplished fine artist Lee delivers a series of energetic oil paintings, but her scenes depicting African-Americans with featureless faces may also puzzle youngsters. Mama's luscious pink hat that "looked like a flower basket," the choir's flowing purple robes and a chorus of outstretched hands raised in praise in front of stained glass windows are among the memorable scenes. An author's note details the author's research on and inspiration for the book. All ages. (Feb.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
In an author's note, Thomas explains that Shouting is "the exhilarating, foot-tapping, hand-clapping echo of joy and faith." Both author and illustrator have captured the exuberance of this expression of freedom and faith. The lyrical text and animated folk-art paintings have an air of nostalgia, as an African-American girl watches her mother prepare for church ("she smelled like blue violets/And Dixie Peach and the/Fragrance of fresh-washed sheets/Brought in from the sun and air") and take her place in a pew. When the Holy Ghost breaks out, Mama dances, "one hand behind her back/The other waving at something loose in the air…And every time she tried/To sit down/The organ moaned/And screamed/The song reached out and held her/Then let her go." The text's undulating rhythm is enticing; it moves through the pages, beautifully partnered with Lee's textured paintings. The faceless figures, with their affecting hand movements, convey exquisite beauty and communion in their fluid, graceful bearing. The lavish church hats add a touch of fun and festivity. This magnificent book is not religious in tone, but more a reflection of a deep cultural connection to African roots. As they leave church, the celebrants "are still shouting/On TV or alone in the shower/On the dance floor...Echoing Africa, Africa, Africa." This is a sumptuous offering.
Mary HazeltonCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
A paean to "shouting," the holy dancing that occurs in some African-American churches, this evocative picture book pairs a free-form poem with double-page spreads in warm colors and soft textures. Those unfamiliar with the practice may be confused by Thomas's text, which describes a woman's religious fervor from her daughter's point of view and then links shouting to traditional African dance as well as contemporary dance styles. Her author's note, however, sheds light both on her childhood memories and her adult understanding of this cultural phenomenon. Lee's paintings are somewhat stylized with limited details and old-fashioned costumes. Her decision to use faceless characters is another potentially puzzling element. However, this choice may allow readers familiar with the practice to see it in a more universal light. Whether enjoyed as a long-overdue validation of personal experience or appreciated as a glimpse into an unknown world, this portrait of an African-American tradition is likely to be warmly welcomed. (Picture book. 4-8)