WALK TOGETHER CHILDREN
Stark sobriety of mood and fluid overall design meet in Ashley Bryan's black and white prints which feature African people and motifs, often mixed with biblical subjects. Unfortunately the handsome illustrations and hand-blocked notes threaten to overpower the words to the spirituals themselves -- so different from the artwork in their deceptive simplicity and their use of religious themes to express a longing for freedom (a message which Ashley's use of blacks in the biblical scenes makes explicit). The absence of accompanying arrangements is not important at this level; however even young children will want more than the single verse provided in most instances. In all, this is not quite the ideal format for a "first book of spirituals," but Bryan's illustrations have an emotional toughness not usually found in work for children -- one which refutes, albeit not very subtly, the misconceived notion that spirituals are either submissive or sentimental.