WORDS WITH WINGS by Belinda Rochelle


A Treasury of African-American Poetry and Art
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Compiler Rochelle (Jewels, 1998, etc.) envisioned this project as a way to help youngsters release their “own creative energy” even as they confront the “work, pain, love, anger, regret” endemic to the human experience. In general this is a welcoming and welcome volume, an ambitious pairing of some 20 inspiring poems with quality reproductions of handsome work by significant African-American artists. Rochelle includes 17 poets, including such greats as Angelou, Braithewaite, Brooks Clifton, Cullen, Dove, Dunbar, Giovanni, Hayden, Hughes, Johnson, Jordan, and Walker. Old favorites include: Langston Hughes’s “My People” and Lucille Clifton’s “Listen Children.” The illustration choices mostly reflect 19th- and early-20th-century artists like Henry Ossawa Tanner and Charles Dawson, or mid-century painters like Romare Bearden, Horace Pippin, and Hughie Lee-Smith. Unfortunately, the book’s overly busy design seriously detracts from the art reproductions and often diminishes the text. The paintings are stunning enough to be viewed without decorative embellishments. Particularly annoying is a black and white stripey tail that curves around and under Lucille Clifton’s “Auction Street” and its paired, powerful, painting—Jacob Lawrence’s “Community.” Riflescope-like spots decorate the black page that includes Countee Cullen’s “ Incident” and distressingly distracts from Lev T. Mills’s affecting sepia-toned image of a young boy, chin in hand, considering his life and his community. Though backmatter is included, it is, sadly, too brief to be of use for the reader who wants to know more about the poets and the artists Rochelle highlights. There is little or no substantive information about the writers, the original sources and dates of the poetry, or the medium, dimension, and dates of the reproduced art. However, despite these limitations, families and libraries hungry for more information and inspiration on African-American themes will want to own this as a beginning. Words with Wings will soar year round—not just during Black History month. (Picture book/poetry. All ages)

Pub Date: Jan. 31st, 2001
ISBN: 0-688-16415-3
Page count: 48pp
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 2001


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