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WE TROUBLED THE WATERS by Ntozake Shange

WE TROUBLED THE WATERS

By Ntozake Shange (Author) , Rod Brown (Illustrator)

Age Range: 10 - 14

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-06-133735-2
Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Obie Award–winning playwright Shange teams up with illustrator Brown in this roughly linear collection of art and poetry vignettes from the Civil Rights Movement. The first poem’s title sets the chronology: “Booker T. Washington School, 1941.” Thanks to the abstract nature of the artwork and the ambiguous word choices, the final poem, “Heah Y’all Come,” accompanied by an illustration of the Washington Monument, could be about the famed March on Washington in 1963 or any of the gatherings since that time. The lives of everyday people are recounted alongside major figures of the day, such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. Although the art is rich and the poetry compelling, the lack of contextualization will make this challenging for younger readers. A case in point is the dedication page, which the author offers “to the Little Rock Nine with great appreciation”—yet instead of depicting the Nine, there is an illustration of a creek, and in the lower right-hand corner a dead body floats, face down. Worthwhile but best for older readers. (Picture book/poetry. 10-14)