Books by Jerome Lagarrigue

FICTION
Released: Jan. 1, 2005

An ordinary African-American girl witnesses extraordinary events in this first-person account of the Greensboro sit-ins of 1960. Eight-year-old Connie lives in a segregated world where she can't use the same public drinking fountains, bathrooms, movie theatres, swimming pools, and lunch counters as whites. Then one day everything changes. Four African-American college boys stage a sit-in at the local Woolworth's lunch counter and Connie anxiously watches history unfold as her own brother and sister join the picketing and sit-ins and protest spreads throughout the South. A long six months later, Connie samples the sweet taste of freedom when she is served a banana split at the same lunch counter. Lagarrigue's somber, somewhat impressionistic paintings capture the dignity and gravity of the times. This quietly moving story pays tribute to the peaceful protesters who did indeed "overcome." (author's note) (Picture book. 5+)Read full book review >
GOING NORTH by Janice N. Harrington
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 8, 2004

Any child who has ever faced the upheaval of a cross-country move will relate to this gorgeous, autobiographical picture-book poem about an African-American family that moves north from Alabama to Nebraska in 1964. The girl protagonist doesn't want to go—she wants to stay with Big Mama and peel sweet potatoes: "But Going-North Day hurries to our door / like it's tired of our slowpokey ways." As the yellow station wagon heads north (a journey mapped on the endpapers), the girl watches the world go by, thoughts echoing the rhythms of the road: "good <\b>/ bye / good <\b>/ bye / good <\b>/ bye." The family almost runs out of gas because the segregated stations won't serve them, but the African-American-owned Joe's Gas pulls through, and the girl thinks maybe the North will be better "may / be / may / be / may / be." The impressionistic, color-rich paintings are as warm and expressive as the lyrical story, a nighttime view of the car's headlights and taillights cutting the midnight-blue darkness is as stunning as the full-bleed, double-page spread of big sky and cotton fields. (Picture book. 3-6)Read full book review >
CHILDREN'S
Released: Dec. 1, 2002

This tribute to collage artist Romare Bearden is movingly executed in a fictionalized story of young James, who visits his aunt and uncle in New York while his parents adjust to the arrival of twins. James is a little nervous; Uncle Romie and Aunt Nanette don't have any kids, and a picture of Uncle Romie makes him look a little scary. Who will bake him a lemon cake and take him to the baseball game on his birthday? Aunt Nanette turns out to be warmhearted and welcoming, but Uncle Romie, busy with his art, seems a little distant. When the big day arrives, Uncle Romie turns out to be more fun that James anticipated. When James enters the art studio for the first time, he recognizes Harlem in Romie's collage paintings that he'd previously dismissed as "kinda easy" to make, and he sees one that reminds him of North Carolina, where Uncle Romie also grew up. Uncle and nephew bond a little over shared memories of home, and then Uncle Romie surprises James with tickets to the ballgame. Aunt Nanette is back in time for cake, and by the time James goes home, his horizons have expanded not only in terms of his family, but in his appreciation for other places and for the power of art. So many things at home now remind him of Uncle Romie that he makes a collage birthday card for him featuring train schedules, tiger lilies, a subway token and subway map, and his own painting. Lagarrigue's (Freedom Summer, 2001, etc.) collage artwork, like Bearden's, possesses a real feel for the Harlem setting without actually being realistic. He conveys the essence of the place through bits of paper, darkly colored paint, and impressionistically blurry portrayals of people and scenes. A guide at the back to help young artists create their own collages enhances this fitting introduction to an American artist. (Picture book. 5-8)Read full book review >
FREEDOM SUMMER by Deborah Wiles
CHILDREN'S
Released: Jan. 1, 2001

Wiles draws on memories of her childhood summers in Mississippi in her first picture book, a slice-of-life story about Joe, a Caucasian boy, and his best friend, John Henry, an African-American boy whose mother works as a housekeeper for Joe's family. The setting is the Deep South in the summer of 1964, the period called Freedom Summer for its wide-ranging social changes following passage of the Civil Rights Act. Joe and John Henry have spent all their summers together, working around the rampant prejudice of the era and maintaining their friendship even though they can't swim in the public pool together or walk into the local store to buy a pair of ice pops. When the new law takes effect, the boys race together to the public pool only to find it being filled in with asphalt by city workers. John Henry's hurt and shame ring true in the text, but Joe's precocious understanding of the situation outstrips his age. ("I want to see this town with John Henry's eyes.") An author's note at the beginning of the book describes her experiences and the atmosphere in her own hometown during this era, when some white business owners preferred to close down rather than open their doors to African-Americans. Younger children will need this background explanation to understand the story's underlying layers of meaning, or the filling-in of the swimming pool will seem like a mindless bureaucratic blunder rather than concrete prejudice in action. Teachers and parents could use this book as a quiet but powerful introduction to the prejudice experienced by many Americans, and of course the book is a natural to pair with the story of another, more-famous John Henry. Vibrant full-page paintings by talented French-born artist Lagarrigue capture both the palpable heat of southern summer days and the warmth of the boys' friendship. (Picture book. 6-12)Read full book review >