LITTLE MAN, LITTLE MAN by James Baldwin
Kirkus Star

LITTLE MAN, LITTLE MAN

A Story of Childhood
Age Range: 8 & up
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Back in print after decades, Baldwin’s warmly vernacular tale celebrates and explores the challenges and joys of childhood on a 1970s-era Harlem block rippling with black life.

French artist Cazac’s original vibrant watercolor illustrations are fully restored in this new edition. In a new foreword, Baldwin’s nephew Tejan Karefa-Smart, affectionately known as TJ, informs readers that “Uncle Jimmy” wrote this book to answer his youthful request: “When you gonna write a book about MeeeeEEE?” Thus 4-year-old TJ stands at the center of the story, with 7-year-old WT and 8-year-old Blinky joining him in an eventful day full of music bumping from Mr Man’s basement apartment, playful fits of African strut-dancing, and the occasional neighborly favor. Baldwin adopts an experimental structure, interrupting the present-day account with background scenes of beauty and tragedy, including a cinematic montage that introduces this familial, close-knit Harlem block through the choreography of a fatal police chase. This is offset by joyous moments, such as TJ’s flashback to family breakfasts on Sunday mornings when the little boy feels Mama’s love and hears Daddy’s lessons: “I want you to be proud of your people.” The people, places, and circumstances that TJ and readers encounter are emblematic of many issues children’s literature still struggles to represent today: Alcoholism, drug addiction, economic disparity, street violence, and racism all make appearances in critical yet loving ways. The editors’ introduction and an afterword by Baldwin’s niece Aisha Karefa-Smart further contextualize this new edition.

Pulled from the past, this is a brilliant exploration of black childhood with profound emotional depth, drawn from the grace and struggles of community and reinforcing the truth that no one knows Harlem like Baldwin. (Fiction. 8-adult)

Pub Date: Aug. 24th, 2018
ISBN: 978-1-4780-0004-4
Page count: 128pp
Publisher: Duke Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 2018




SIMILAR BOOKS SUGGESTED BY OUR CRITICS:

ChildrenHARLEM SUMMER by Walter Dean Myers
by Walter Dean Myers
ChildrenHARLEM RENAISSANCE PARTY by Faith Ringgold
by Faith Ringgold
ChildrenLAST STOP ON MARKET STREET by Matt de la Peña
by Matt de la Peña