Hey Black Child (Useni Eugene Perkins)

Hello, friends! Our book today is the joyful Hey Black Child, written by Useni Eugene Perkins and illustrated by Bryan Collier, a poem to encourage, enlighten, and inspire little readers of color.

Using the spare yet impactful text of Perkins’s beloved 1975 poem, words and visuals weave together to form a message of motivation for little black boys and girls. The poem asks three simple questions of its listener: Do you know who you are? Do you know where you’re going? Do you know you are strong? The answer to all three is the same – it all depends on you, and the only limits are the ones you set for yourself. The world is waiting, so go forth and do great things, and you will build a better world for doing so.

Love. This. Going in, I had no knowledge of Perkins’s poem, which is often attributed to other sources. It’s a compact powerhouse, using an economy of words to spread a message of self-confidence, faith in oneself, and hope for a better tomorrow. It translates beautifully to book form, with a flawless rhythm that makes it a joy to read aloud and straightforward text that is sure to engage little bookworms. Collier’s work is gorgeous as always, and there are some especially breathtaking spreads here: a stargazing young girl with the expansive cosmic universe spread out behind her, balloons rising from a piano as a little girl grows into a ballerina, the real-life faces of dozens of black children forming radiant beams of sunlight. The length is great, and JJ loved it. A perfect staple for any child of color’s library at any age, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

I, Too, Am America (Langston Hughes)

Hello, friends! As you know, February is Black History Month, so in honor of that, we will be reading a book every Friday that celebrates black heritage and culture, as well as black authors and artists. Today’s book is I, Too, Am America, a retelling of a poem by Langston Hughes with a story told through art by Bryan Collier.

Using the text of Hughes’s classic poem, Collier uses his art to tell a story of a Pullman railway porter, one of the first American jobs to offer black men decent pay and comparatively dignified work. Hughes’s words describe black Americans as a member of the American family, but one who is treated with scorn and shame. Yet despite this treatment, he will “eat well,/ And grow strong,” text that is juxtaposed with images of the porter releasing discarded magazines and newspapers from the back of the train, spreading knowledge to other black people as he travels. The art moves seamlessly from past to present, and in the face of a young black boy on a subway train with his mother, peering through the stripes of an American flag at what comes next, the future.

This was a superb book, featuring layers of meaning and interpretation through both Hughes’s words and Collier’s art. Visual and textual metaphors blend together perfectly, creating a story that both examines a very specific part of African-American history with the grand scope of growing up as a black person in America, and the indefatigable spirit doing so requires. The length is perfect for baby bookworms: there is limited yet impactful text, and JJ was so enamored of the art that she spent a solid twenty minutes staring at the pages after our initial read-through. It’s a fabulous book to share with little ones, and discuss afterwards, and we highly recommend it. Baby Bookworm approved!

Little Tree (e.e. cummings & Chris Raschka)

Happy Holidays Week, Day 7: Merry Christmas, everyone! Our book today was Little Tree, based on a poem by e.e. cummings with story and illustrations by Chris Raschka, a lovely Christmas tale of a little tree and all the joy it brings to the world.

A little tree sits in a little forest, waiting for the day it will become something more. Then one day, a little truck comes and drives the little tree to the little big city, where a little family lives. The tree waits on the sidewalk for them to come and choose it, so they can bring it home and decorate it will all their baubles and bits for Christmas.

This was a lovely little book based on a poem by one of my favorite poets. The cubist-inspired illustrations are fun and colorful, and the pleasant story is a good length and full of Christmas cheer (though you may be a little sick of the word “little” by the end of it). JJ enjoyed it, so this one is Baby Bookworm approved!

The White Cat And The Monk (Jo Ellen Bogart)

Summer Reading Day 88: Hello, everyone! Today, we read The White Cat And The Monk, written by Jo Ellen Bogart and illustrated by Sydney Smith. This lovely book is a retelling of a 9th century Irish poem called “Pangur Bán,” and tells the story of a monk contemplating his simple life with his cat, Pangur. As his cat hunts mice, the monk studies his manuscripts, and as the day breaks, he reflects on how he and Pangur both find happiness in their pursuits and their life together.

If you’re looking for a quiet, peaceful sort of book, this one fits the bill perfectly. The story is simple and the language soothing, and the length is just perfect for baby bookworms. The illustrations are charming, done mostly in a muted palette of black, white and grays and getting more colorful as the night turns to day. We really liked this one, as did our own fair kitty, Ripley! Baby Bookworm (and kitty) approved.