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Ellington Was Not a Street Hardcover – January 1, 2004


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 5 - 11 years
  • Grade Level: Kindergarten - 6
  • Hardcover: 40 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers; 1 edition (January 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0689828845
  • ISBN-13: 978-0689828843
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 0.4 x 12 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #269,949 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 3-8-Nelson illustrates the noted poet's "Mood Indigo," from her collection entitled A Daughter's Geography. The book begins with the opening lines of the poem set against a pale gray page: "it hasn't always been this way/ellington was not a street." Opposite, a full-page painting shows several people walking beneath a green sign that reads Ellington St. A young African-American woman carrying a red umbrella is prominently featured, and readers will soon understand that she is the child narrator, all grown up (the resemblance is striking). In the poem, Shange recalls her childhood when her family entertained many of the "-men/who changed the world," including Paul Robeson, W.E.B. DuBois, Ray Barretto, Dizzy Gillespie, "Sonny Til" Tilghman, Kwame Nkrumah, and Duke Ellington. Both the words and the rich, nostalgic illustrations are a tribute to these visionaries. Done in oils, the skillfully rendered portraits emphasize facial expressions, clothing, and physical positioning on the page, and provide unmistakable insight into the persona of each individual. Although presented in picture-book format, the poem is sophisticated, and therefore it may need to be read aloud and explained to younger readers. A biographical sketch of each man appears at the end, along with the poem reprinted on a single page.
Mary N. Oluonye, Shaker Heights Public Library, OH
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Gr. 3-5. The text of this picture book for older children is a paean to Shange's family home and the exciting men who gathered there, everyone from W. E. B. DuBois and Paul Robeson to Dizzy Gillispie and Duke Ellington. Taken from Shange's 1983 poem "Mood Indigo," the words here recall, from a child's perspective, what it was like to listen "in the company of men / politics as necessary as collards / music even in our dreams." The evocative words are more than matched by Nelson's thrilling, oversize oil paintings, a cross between family photo album and stage set, featuring this group of extraordinary men interacting--playing cards, singing, discussing. The girl who is always watching them is, unfortunately, portrayed as very young, perhaps three or four, although she appears somewhat older on the beguiling jacket art. Preschoolers are not the audience for this, and despite the helpful notes that introduce the men mentioned in the poem, even older children will need further explanations (e.g., where are the famous women?). Depicting the narrator as a child closer in age to the target audience would have helped bridge the gap between a poem written for adults and a book for children. Still, with words and pictures that are so enticing, this will be embraced by many. Ilene Cooper
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Customer Reviews

It is a beautiful poem coupled with beautiful illustrations.
D. Bennette
With reference to men like Dubois, Dizzy and Robeson it captures the spirit of children being raised amongst men.
NikkiGuess
This book is a tribute to their memories as well as tool to teach the younger generation about the past.
Dee Brown

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on October 20, 2004
Format: Hardcover
You know what doesn't get enough respect in this world? Author's Notes. As you read through the various picture books available to the public today, you forget how important Author's Notes are sometimes. You take them for granted until one day, out of the blue, you read a fabulous picture book like, "ellington was not a street", and find yourself scrambling frantically for something ANYTHING that reveals who the author is and what her intent was. After some readings and re-readings, I finally discovered a little background to this story hidden away in the hardback copy's bookflap. I'll share this information with you since, aside from its apparent destestation of clarification, "ellington was not a street" is a beautiful work of picture book art that deserves to be culled through by kids and scolars alike for years to come.

Poet and author Ntozake Shange drew up in the company of some of the greatest black heroes of America. Can you imagine what it must be like to know that as a toddler you slept on the couch while Paul Robeson and W.E.B. Dubois discussed the world? Or to remember the presence of people like Dizzy Gillespie and the Clovers in your home? With "ellington was not a street" you can. In Kadir Nelson's sumptuous images the viewer accompanies a small girl in a beautiful blue dress. The girl, supposedly Shange herself when young, inserts herself into almost each and every picture in this book. One moment she's greeting Ray Barretto at the door and in another she's pleased as punch to be attending a fancy soiree her parents are hosting. The book's text is a poem originally written by Shange in 1983. Entitled, "Mood Indigo", it starts off with a simple, "it hasnt always been this way/ ellington was not a street".
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Dee Brown on January 14, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I have been a fan of Ntozake Shange since seeing the play "For colored girls..." as a teen. Her writing and passion has always been vibrant and found its way to the heart of you. This book is a beautiful reflection of what & who shaped her as a child. She knew some of the fore most revered African-American minds and talents when as a child as friends "play uncles." They influenced her and now she uses her history and past to mold and shape young readers. This book is a tribute to their memories as well as tool to teach the younger generation about the past. I am greatful to her for this book and all her other books. Every library should have this book for their children. We have read this to our daughters and will most assuredly read it to our son. I can't say anymore regarding Kadir Nelson except "Masterful." He has the portraiture down to a science. W.E.B. DuBois leaps off the page.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on January 19, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I think Ellington Was Not a Street should have won the Caldecott because it had very realistc and large drawings. The drawings also helped tell the story because there were very few words on the page. I would reccomend this book for ages 9 to 19.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By AfroAmericanHeritage on December 30, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This book is so beautiful! The poem and illustrations are a perfect fit, recreating Harlem during a rich period in time. It's about the past, but reminds us of what the present and future could be. Biographies of the people mentioned in the poem bring the story to life even more. This is the sort of book I'd buy for a child, but end up keeping for myself.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By M. Allen Greenbaum HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on May 17, 2006
Format: Hardcover
You know this is a memorable book right away.

On the flyleaf, young Ntozake Shange (born Paulette Williams in Trenton, New Jersey on October 18, 1948) sits on a grand piano, clutching precious black vinyl, while overhead hangs a detail of a picture from the harlem Renaissance.

You turn to the first page of text, and, against robin's egg blue, inside a darker blue background, Shange begins her story: "It hasn't always been this way. ellington was not a street." On the facing page of this oversized book is a picture so beautiful you could frame it, a street scene of umbrella'd people walking under a street sign signifying "ELLINGTON ST," with fog-locked but luminous buildings seen in quarter-profile.

She continues:

robeson no mere memory
dubois walked up my father's stairs...
...dizzy's hair was not always grey

Kadir Nelson's powerful, evocative images accompanying the prose poem. Big Paul Robeson, actor, singer, writer, activist, exile, towers over young Shange, in an entryway filled with color and art and taste. (Shange, indeed, came from an upper middle class background; her father a military surgeon and her mother an educator and psychiatric social worker.)

The elderly Dubois, cane in hand, walks with dignity in the handclasp of her welcoming father, approaching a stately grandfather's clock and young Shange, clutching her doll.

Percussionist Ray Baretto and trumpet player Diizy Gillespie greet her on the porch, autumn leaves echoing the autumnal colors of the brick and wood house, while Dizzy holds one finger to his lips and fills his cheeks, all to the curious delight of the little girl.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Maatka on January 25, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This is one of the most beautifully illustrated picturebooks I've ever seen. Kadir Nelson is brilliant and supremely talented. It takes us into the narrator's home (the little girl on the cover) and gives us an intimate view of some of the most celebrated African-Americans in history. The text is scarce in a good way, and set off beautifully in boxes within the illustrations. Elegant and edifying.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews


More About the Author

Ntozake Shange, poet, novelist, playwright, and performer, wrote the Broadway-produced and Obie Award-winning For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf. She has also written numerous works of fiction, including Sassafras, Cypress and Indigo, Betsy Brown, and Liliane.

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