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ROCK OF AGES by Tonya Bolden


by Tonya Bolden & illustrated by R. Gregory Christie

Age Range: 5 - 8

Pub Date: Dec. 26th, 2001
ISBN: 0-679-89485-3
Publisher: Knopf

A poetic tribute to the sustaining power of the Black Church. Free verse celebrates the institution in its many incarnations from its beginnings on the plantations (when “she was / invisible . . . / her roof nightsky, / her flooring Godgrown pastures walled by woods . . . ”) and emphasizing the leaders and artists it has nurtured. Bolden’s (And Not Afraid to Dare, 1998) language is frequently labored, employing an unfortunate inverted syntax—“Multitudes she has mothered / in times of dense distress . . . ” and “wasn’t it she who raised in singles / and change much money”—that can stop readers in their tracks in order to decipher the meaning. Nevertheless, the work retains a heartfelt passion for its subject that is genuinely inspiring: “When we were the not-alloweds / and go-to-the-back-door people, / she was a warm place to be. . . . ” Christie’s (DeShawn Days, p. 868) bright, primitive-looking illustrations are bursting with expressive energy: on one page an old woman stares out through her glasses, challenging the reader to pity her; on another, members of a congregation raise their hands in glad chorus. Notes on the historical events or personages alluded to in the poem appear at the end with thumbnails of the relevant illustrations; an author’s note explains the genesis of the poem itself. Although somewhat ungainly at times, it’s ultimately moving. (Picture book. 5-8)