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Harlem: A Poem

by Walter Dean Myers
Illustrated by Christopher Myers

Published by Scholastic, 1997
32 pages
ISBN: 0-590-54340-7

Ages 12 and older

Walter Dean Myers has written a riveting, richly textured poem that traces the history of Harlem in a cascade of freewheeling, carefully chosen words. Harlem was the gathering place. Harlem was the welcoming place. Harlem was Black faces, Black voices, Black energy. Harlem was Black without apology, "...a promise / Of a better life, of a place where a man didn't / Have to know his place / Simply because he was / Black." Myers's rhythmic free-verse text vibrates with joy and pain and pulses with the people and places, the sights and sounds of Harlem throughout the twentieth century: Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen and W.E.B. DuBois. Marcus Garvey and Malcom X. The Apollo Theater and the Cotton Club. A capella on the street corners, Sunday night gospel, a soprano saxophone. Rent parties, checker games, funerals. Children "living out their own slam-dunk dreams / Listening / for the coming of the blues." The images are touchstones of history and emotional experience, inviting readers to dive deeply into the history of Black experience in America, to know the facts, but also the feelings of both triumph and despair. To accompany his father's poem, Christopher Myers has used ink and gouache over torn paper to create bold, dramatic collage art that is as richly layered as the words, giving face and form to the soul of Harlem. Winner, CCBC Caldecott Award Discussion; Winner, CCBC Coretta Scott King Award Discussion: Illustration; Honor Book, CCBC Coretta Scott King Award Discussion: Writing CCBC categories: Poetry; The Arts; Contemporary People, Places and Events.  © Cooperative Children's Book Center

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