Weatherford’s poetic, swinging textual rhythms meet Christie’s artistic razzmatazz to create one hot picture book.
A historic and cultural tour of Harlem’s famous neighborhood, the book drops names aplenty. Miles Davis, Lena Horne, Zora Neale Hurston, Thurgood Marshall and W.E.B. Du Bois, among others, all lived and thrived in this center of African-American life and art—a place that has also always nurtured black children into productive lives through the arts, literature, and the love and attention of caring adults. Sparsely detailed but action-packed, Christie’s illustrations echo the lives of the star-studded cast of characters. Faith Ringgold’s page, for instance, features the Brooklyn Bridge and a young girl who could just as easily be Cassie from Ringgold’s Tar Beach (1991) as the young Ringgold herself. The backmatter offers biographical blurbs that emphasize the longitudinal impact this neighborhood has had on Harlem and on the nation; birthdates begin in 1868 (Du Bois) and end in the present with those who are still producing art today (Sonny Rollins, the “Saxophone Colossus,” and Ringgold, both 82 years old at the time of this review).
A fine tribute to the local color of Sugar Hill, who have made America a better and more interesting country for almost a century. (Informational picture book. 7-9)