by Zetta Elliott
Horn Book In this powerfully lyrical poem, Elliott articulates what resides "deep down inside" of the African American, skateboard-loving, first-person protagonist: joy, sorrow, fear, anger, hunger, pride, peace, and more. While the protagonist speaks, Denmon's illustrations, primarily in blue, pale yellow, and mauve, depict the tween boy doing skateboard tricks (showing the bottom of his board that's covered in peace and justice stickers) and spending time with friends, while muted backgrounds depict life in his urban neighborhood. This book delivers positivity, despite the inclusion of police brutality, a Black Lives Matter protest, and a vigil for the dead -- all of which affirm the child's realities. At school, when he presents his work to his classmates, great figures such as Mae Jemison, Jackie Robinson, Louis Armstrong, Maya Angelou, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King Jr. appear on the opposite mural-like page, inspiring him as he takes pride in the past. On a page with no white space, a group of multigenerational Black individuals with different skin tones, facial features, hairstyles, and expressions faces the reader. The boy declares them "triumphant & beautiful," as faintly visible images of African women peer from the background, carrying baskets of food on their heads -- referencing the ancestry of those in the foreground. A well-crafted, twenty-first-century love poem by two truth-telling Black women artists and activists. (c) Copyright 2021. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly This poignant poem follows a Black child as they process emotions following a tragedy and find renewal in community action. The child gleans pleasure from skateboarding and playing basketball, until police killing a girl disrupts their equilibrium. As the protagonist recognizes internal sorrow, fear, and anger in turn, they join Black Lives Matter protests and attend a candlelight vigil. Identifying the pride, compassion, and hope they draw from community, the child ultimately concludes, “I am in love with/ my people/ all people,” and determines to “love myself/ most of all.” Denmon’s textured, dynamic illustrations situate a compassionate community among murals of flowers and vines. The characters’ varying ages, cultures, skin tones, features, and personal styles reflect a diversity of Black experiences, notably in a spread that portrays Black visionaries through the ages (including Beyoncé, Maya Angelou, Malcolm X, and Louis Armstrong). A resonant exultation of community and the importance of self-reflection. Ages 4–8. (July)
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