From School Library Journal
Grade 6 Up. A visually striking, oversized picture book. Walter Dean Myers's songlike poem relates the story of a group of people who settled in New York City, hoping to improve their lots in life, only to discover that racism could still keep them from achieving success. Well-known Harlem landmarks, such as the Cotton Club and the Apollo Theater, are mentioned, as are famous African Americans, like Langston Hughes and Joe Louis. The pain of discrimination is made abundantly clear through Myers's forceful, often bitter words. The pride and determination of the people of Harlem are also demonstrated, as is their at times overwhelming despair. The bold collage and ink drawings complement the text well. Although the book paints a vibrant picture of the area and its residents, it is difficult to imagine its proposed audience. Many young people will not be able to grasp the subtleties and imagery of the poem or understand its frequent cultural references. The artwork is fresh and eye-catching, but it, too, is sophisticated. Overall, this is an arresting and heartfelt tribute to a well-known, but little understood, community that may take a bit of effort to sell.?Melissa Hudak, North Suburban District Library, Roscoe, IL
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Gr. 6^-12. The two Myerses--author and artist, father and son--celebrate Harlem, which they perceive both as a city and a "promise of a better life," in quite different but wonderfully complementary ways. The author views Harlem--where he grew up--as a symbol of African American aspiration; the artist shares a more concrete city composed of "colors loud enough to be heard." In a text that is as much song as poem, the author offers his impressionistic appreciation for a culture that is predominantly music-based, with its roots in "calls and songs and shouts" "first heard in the villages of Ghana/Mali/Senegal." In his hotly vibrant ink, gouache, and collage images, the artist shows us the textures of the city streets, the colors of "sun yellow shirts on burnt umber bodies," and even, it seems, the sounds the words themselves evoke. The very look of metaphorical moments is well served by the text, but it is Harlem as a visual experience that YAs will return to again and again, to admire and wonder at what is realized with truly extraordinary grace and power by this young artist of such wonderful promise. Michael Cart