Books by Charles R. Smith Jr.

28 DAYS by Charles R. Smith Jr.
CHILDREN'S
Released: Jan. 13, 2015

"A stellar achievement for the whole year—not just its shortest month. (author's note, bibliography) (Informational picture book/poetry. 4-10)"
Three pivotal Supreme Court cases, one amendment, and 25 great men and women make for memorable entries. Read full book review >
ONE DEATH, NINE STORIES by Marc Aronson
YOUNG ADULT
Released: Aug. 26, 2014

"Complex and emotionally demanding, this collection aims for and will resonate with serious readers of realistic fiction. (Short stories. 14-20)"
The death of Kevin, at once charismatic and tortured, is at the epicenter of this collection of short stories by nine well-known authors for teens, exploring the lives of his peers, acquaintances and family as it reveals how each of them is affected. Read full book review >
I AM THE WORLD by Charles R. Smith Jr.
CHILDREN'S
Released: July 9, 2013

"Well-intentioned and superficially attractive, this celebration of children and culture ultimately fails to educate or entertain. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-7)"
Once again, Smith offers appealing portraits of children in an effort to express the value of diversity (My People, by Langston Hughes, 2009, etc.). Read full book review >
BRICK BY BRICK by Charles R. Smith Jr.
CHILDREN'S
Released: Dec. 26, 2012

"An excellent title that provides an admirably accurate picture of slavery in America for younger readers. (author's note, selected resources) (Picture book. 4-7)"
The White House is truly the people's house. Read full book review >
CHILDREN'S
Released: Jan. 3, 2012

"Still, what baseball fan won't thrill at this game that included the likes of the Brown Bomber, Willie 'the Devil' Wells and the Tan Cheetah? (Historical fiction. 8-12)"
Some of the best-ever baseball players face off in 1934 at the second annual Negro League All-Star game in Chicago. Read full book review >
FICTION
Released: Feb. 1, 2011

Gladiators meet at the Cage, a fenced-in basketball court at West 4th in Manhattan, one of the legendary sites of playground ball. Sportswriter Rick Telander titled his classic basketball story Heaven Is a Playground, and that's certainly the description of the Cage, where ballers come "wearing attitude like / baggy shorts," and high-flying slams, rainbows and double dunks offer aerial thrills as good as fireworks. Here are the players, the mentors, the used-to-bes and the wannabes, the scouts, the filmmakers, the ghosts and the legends. Some of the best contemporary writers for teens—Walter Dean Myers, Robert Lipsyte, Rita Williams-Garcia, Joseph Bruchac and others—contribute to this novel in linked short stories, in which the players weave their way through one day at the Cage, and Charles R. Smith ties the volume together with rap poems celebrating the place, the people and the throbbing energy of the game—as Walt Whitman might have had he been a baller. Superb stories by writers who know and love the game; an ode to the show. (Linked short stories. 14 & up)Read full book review >
BLACK JACK by Charles R. Smith Jr.
CHILDREN'S
Released: July 1, 2010

Through poetry, quotations and some prose, the life of one of boxing's most important stars is celebrated, from his youth as the victim of bullies to the 1908 championship bout against a white fighter that made him a legend. Readers get to know Jack Johnson, a man who never gave in to stereotypes and demanded to be treated equally, not as a second-class citizen. Though the author's note continues the story in greater detail, the seamier side of Johnson's life is left unreported, aside from his jail time for dating a white woman. Sometimes faltering rhythms and almost-rhymes make this a challenge to read aloud without plenty of practice. Evans's dynamic art is at its best here: Johnson comes off big and powerful and strong, with his monumental body extending into many text areas. The title pages and final spread show Johnson, backlit by a powerful sun, the perfect visual metaphor for the hope he gave to black Americans of his time. (author's note, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 5-10)Read full book review >
MY PEOPLE by Langston Hughes
CHILDREN'S
Released: Jan. 6, 2009

Hughes first published "My People" in 1923. Bold photographs that joyfully celebrate the diversity of African-American culture bring this simple text to life once again. Faces of various skin tones and ages, and both genders, explode from the black background of each page, all reproduced in faintly antiqued sepia tones that both befit the Jazz Age origins of the poem and give glorious depth to the faces depicted. The image that illustrates "The stars are beautiful" is of hair ornaments in deep, rich, black hair; light-bathed faces look up into an implied "sun." Smith's eye for detail and his extraordinary photographs eloquently express the pride and love the poet felt for his people, capturing equally the curiosity and excitement of youth and the experience and wisdom of elders. The simple yet brilliant photographs fully occupy the page; filmstrip-like thumbnails at the edges provide a visual rhythm. All together, they are the perfect accompaniment to the classic poem and create a complex work of art that any age can relish. (photographer's note) (Picture book. 2-10)Read full book review >
Released: Dec. 1, 2007

Smith's most ambitious project to date celebrates the life of Muhammad Ali, from his Olympic gold medal in 1960, renowned fights with Sonny Liston and Joe Frazier, his personal battle with Parkinson's syndrome to the dramatic lighting of the Olympic torch at the 1996 Atlanta games. The attractive, large-format design and the rap-inspired poems, arranged in 12 rounds like a boxing match, will attract readers. However, the combination of busy and dense layout, long poems with complicated rhymes and rhythms and a large amount of biographical information conveyed in the poems makes the volume daunting, even for experienced readers. Collier's watercolor-and-collage illustrations range from spectacular to bizarre, demonstrating—as in his illustrations for Doreen Rappaport's John's Secret Dreams (2004)—a tendency for his work to be distractingly symbolic. A challenging, sometimes beautiful tribute to a modern-day hero—attractive, impressive and dramatic, but not a knockout. (timeline) (Poetry/nonfiction. 10+) Read full book review >
WHO NEEDS BIRDS WHEN DOGS CAN FLY? by Fay Robinson
CHILDREN'S
Released: Oct. 1, 2002

A dog's day from a dog's own perspective is the unifying theme of this collection of 13 mostly non-rhyming poems by Robinson (Halloween, not reviewed, etc.). The humorous verses describe a dog's favorite activities, such as going for a walk, lolling about on the couch, and getting into mischief while the people are gone, as well as more mundane aspects of life: getting up in the morning, putting doggy-slime streaks on all the windows, and hogging the bed at night. (There are no poems about watering the fire hydrant or leaving surprises on the carpet.) Although at first reading, the poems may seem a little simplistic, a little bouncy, perhaps a tad too earnest, on reflection, the thoughtful reader realizes that the poet has captured the essence of dogdom: simple, bouncy, earnest, enthusiastic. Smith (Perfect Harmony, p. 888, etc.) provides photos of four children and their dogs for the illustrations, with photos of each pair taken in their own home environment. A rather loud, in-your-face design (continuing the canine personality approach) includes brilliantly colored backgrounds and a variety of type treatments, including a deliberately disobedient typeface that refuses to stand still in regimented upright fashion for the poems themselves. (author's note, photographer's note) (Poetry. 4-8)Read full book review >