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My Hands Sing the Blues: Romare Bearden's Childhood Journey Hardcover – September 1, 2011


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My Hands Sing the Blues: Romare Bearden's Childhood Journey + Me and Uncle Romie: A Story Inspired by the Life and Art of Romare Beardon + Story Painter: The Life of Jacob Lawrence
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 6 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: 1st - 3rd
  • Lexile Measure: 780L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 40 pages
  • Publisher: Two Lions (September 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780761458104
  • ISBN-13: 978-0761458104
  • ASIN: 0761458107
  • Product Dimensions: 10.3 x 10 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #266,671 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

K-Gr 3-In a first-person narrative that incorporates some of artist Romare Bearden's phrases and ideas, and using his famous painting "Watching the Good Trains Go By" as her inspiration, Jeanne Walker Harvey gives voice to the history and experiences that inspired his famous collages. Born in North Carolina, Bearden and his family moved to Harlem in 1914 to escape discriminatory Jim Crow Laws and attitudes. In his collages, which he called paintings and "visual jazz," he analyzed the social and political issues of his time and also related his personal story as well as the daily life of African Americans in both the North and South. Kevin R. Free reads Harvey's fictionalized account (Marshall Cavendish, 2011) of the artist's life with a cadence that turns the rhyming lines into a blues song, its rhythm rising and falling and bouncing along, sometimes singing the train whistles and engines like a jazz tune. The audio version perfectly accompanies Elizabeth Zunon's Bearden-like collage illustrations and text that changes size and color for emphasis. The author's note, which details the life and describes the work of Bearden, is included, but source notes from the book are not. While this fictionalized biography provides an excellent introduction to the Great Migration North and the Harlem Renaissance, it is also a work of art in words and pictures.-MaryAnn Karre, Horace Mann and Thomas Jefferson Elementary Schools, Binghamton, NYα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review

Ages 5-8 Hands aren t known to sing, but in this picture book about the childhood of Romare Bearden, hands take on a new attribute. From snipping, to patching, to painting and pasting, this young Carolina boy finds his gift of visual creativity by using his hands to sing the blues. With a Great-grandma sharing the history of the land of the Cherokees to blues and jazz music, Bearden integrates a little of what he has experienced in his famous artwork. This book gives teachers and librarians an excellent source of the Great Migration North, life in the north and south, and how children can be inspired by it all. Illustrations incorporate collages and watercolor paintings in this biography. Children will stay attentive to the innovatively written text and colorful illustrations. Shiela Martina Keaise, Children s Librarian, Colleton County Memorial Library, Walterboro, South Carolina. Recommended. --Library Media Connection, January/February Advanced Reviews

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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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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This book is a gem.
Amy S. Gibson
I must say that Elizabeth Zunon captures the story pictures well of Bearden's complex and colorful artwork.
LadyD
Thanks to Ms. Harvey we get a sense of the family influences.
KQuilter

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Amy S. Gibson on October 27, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This book is a gem. In lyrical, rhythmic, blues-inspired verse, Harvey tells the story of one American artist's road to becoming. It provides a fascinating window into an artist's life, through his eyes as a child. Words and pictures work seamlessly to bring this story to life. Elizabeth Zunon's layered illustrations invite looking at over and over again.

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.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By KQuilter on April 20, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Glad to have this book in my library of biographies. I have long admired Romare Bearden's collages, but didn't know much of his childhood. Thanks to Ms. Harvey we get a sense of the family influences. Elizabeth Zunon has done a lovely job of illustrating the book in the spirit of Bearden!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Yana V. Rodgers on October 15, 2011
Format: Hardcover
As an adult, Romare Bearden became renowned for his striking art, especially his paintings and collages. Some of that artwork was inspired by memories he had as a very young child in North Carolina. The daily indignities and tensions of living segregated lives under the Jim Crow laws led his parents to move the family up to New York City. The move would lead to new opportunities, but it also meant sad goodbyes to great grandparents and to familiar landscapes that changed quickly as the train chugged north.

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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Gagewyn on January 3, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
A warning about the print: I got two copies of this. For the first, although I got the book new from Amazon, many of the pages were stuck together. This wasn't a case of the book getting wet - nothing like that - all pages were crisp without warping. Instead it was something about the ink sticking to the opposite page. This was so bad, that some pages tore pieces of the opposite page off. I am talking quarter sized chunks tearing off and sticking to the opposite page. Amazon sent me a replacement, and that one is a good copy with nice normal pages. So, check your copy when you first get it.

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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mandy Payne HALL OF FAMETOP 10 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 3, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is a very nicely bound book that would make a great gift for a child. It is colorful and interesting while introducing a child to the artist Bearden in a way that will keep them engaged. I love books that entertain while educating children. It is the only way.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Children and Art should make for an easy and immediate connection and one might think that writing about an artist for children is a piece of cake. Not quite. And, an illustrated book on an artist for children is even more complicated - while any book on an artist like Bearden is not for the fainthearted!

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.
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