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My Hands Sing the Blues: Romare Bearden's Childhood Journey Hardcover – September 1, 2011
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From School Library Journal
Ages 5-8 Bearden called his art visual jazz, and this handsome, fictionalized picture-book biography stays true to his rich connections to blues rhythms. With well-chosen quotes (all documented in appended notes), the rhyming first-person narrative in Bearden s voice remembers the people and places of his childhood roots, and his memory whirls back to his growing up in the rural South and then his train journey north to Harlem. Echoing Bearden s distinctive style, the richly textured collage art combines original paintings with paper, fabrics, and photos to show Bearden as a small boy watching trains pass until he and his parents get on a train themselves, and he sees the world whizzing past: A patchwork quilt of greens and gold. The moving climax shows and tells Bearden s approach to work, blending his roots with improvisation: When I put a beat of color on an empty canvas, / I never know what s coming down the track. A lively introduction to the artist for young children and for older readers, too. --Hazel Rochman, Booklist, November 1st Issue
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Top Customer Reviews
As a former teacher striving to create an authentically multicultural curriculum, I find this to be an excellent classroom resource - a beautifully-written, visually-interesting account of the Great Migration.
Rich and satisfying.
This book makes a valuable contribution to a growing collection of children's books that address the topic of institutionalized racism in the United States before the Civil Rights movement. Both the text and the illustrations offer an empowering message as they pay homage to this talented artist and his courageous family.
Now, as for the actual story and pictures... The story is a single long poem written from the perspective of Romare Bearden, a Harlem Renaissance painter. The illustrations are a tribute to Bearden's style with collage and spreading color. Images take the entire two page spread on every page of the book. At the very end, there is a one page factual bio of Bearden, so that if you want to be nerdy and read that, you get facts (the poem which makes up the entire text of the book is too free form to really give good concrete facts).
Telling the story in the form of a poem is great. That's an artist's bio told in an artsy way.
This book is advertised as being for children ages 6 - 8 years. I feel that's way off, and actually that's dead center in the ages that won't appreciate this book. I read this to a four month old, who is at the age where a poem is the best thing to read because he has no idea what it means and just likes the rhythm. Also, the full page pictures with lots of colors and contrast were good for him. So, a very young child can do OK with this.Read more ›
There are other books for children on Bearden (see Hartfield/ Lagarrigue for a very different treatment in narrative and visual interpretation) this new effort by Harvey and Zunon is ideally meant for much younger children than the publishers’ stated or recommended 6-8 years old.
The story itself is quite narrow, avoids anything harsh or political, (presumably as it was beyond what Bearden would have understood at the time of his moving North?) and has large format double page spreads done in a disjointed mix of photograph and tempera (?) which conflate both Bearden the mature artist's technique and Bearden as a young boy in memory within these scenes. A young child would have no problem connecting a few words here or there with the pages’ imagery. Older children would and should expect more meat to this story – essentially this one could have been done in 3 or 4 spreads at most without losing any of its appeal.
Part of the issue with any artist is do the authors USE the artists’ own works to illustrate, hopefully, their own words? And, if NOT, then why not? Is the artist too cerebral, too inaccessible, too contradictory or simply mute on much of their work? But Bearden was none of those things, in fact the absolute BEST line in the whole book is found in the dedication, and it is from Bearden (of course!): “… you put down one color, and it calls for an answer. You have to look at it like a melody.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
My kindergarten students and I loved this story! We used the book to do a train related art response.Published 7 months ago by Meremere
Horrible writing on this one. I teach elementary art and I always teach my students about African American artists during the month of February. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Bethy Steines
A beautiful layered story of finding a voice, rhythm and art,
Part poetic illustrations with vivid words
A great story to tell of the Jim Crow... Read more
Romare Bearden is one of my favorite artists, and I was excited to find out that a new children's book was being released about him by author Jeanne Walker Harvey. Read morePublished 24 months ago by silhouette_of_enchantment
My hands sing the Blues: Romare Bearden's Childhood Journey is a fantastic biography of an influential artist. Read morePublished on January 25, 2014 by S. Power
I'm always looking for books that will help my little ones learn more about people from the past. I'd never heard of Romare Bearden, but my knowledge of people from the past is... Read morePublished on January 16, 2014 by Bluerose's Heart
This children's book (publisher's suggested age range of 6-8 years) is a biographic homage to artist Romare Bearden who is well known for his works depicting the African-American... Read morePublished on January 13, 2014 by Sibelius
This is an exceptional children's book. It tells the story of people of color migrating when there were still Jim Crow laws. Read morePublished on January 7, 2014 by Amazon Customer