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A Song for Harlem

by Patricia C. McKissack
Illustrated by Gordon C. James

Published by Viking, 2007
108 pages
ISBN: 067006209X

Ages 7-10

An appealing novel for newly independent readers is set in 1928 Harlem, where Lilly Belle is spending the summer as a member of the Harlem Young Writers Workshop sponsored by A’Lelia Walker, daughter of Madame C. J. Walker. Lilly Belle is from Smyrna, a small town in Tennessee, and even as she misses home she’s delighted by so much of what Harlem has to offer, not the least of which are the workshop seminars led by a woman named Zora Neale Hurston. She’s made good friends with Melvon, one of the boys about her age attending the workshop, but a girl named Alice is a problem. She teases Lilly Belle and another girl, Cora Mae, about their lack of sophistication and rural, southern ways. Then Lilly Belle discovers that Alice stole words from a magazine called The Crisis, turning in someone else’s writing as her own. Lilly Belle makes the choice to reach out rather than get revenge in Patricia McKissack’s lively fictional story, populated with a host of real figures from Harlem’s history. Part of McKissack’s Scraps of Time series, Lilly Belle’s story is framed by a narrative featuring two contemporary African American children.  © Cooperative Children's Book Center

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