"There were no mirrors in my Nana's house / no mirrors in my Nana's house / So the beauty that I saw in everything / the beauty in everything / was in her eyes / like the rising of the sun." So begins the young granddaughter's joyful paean to her Nana in Dr. Ysaye M. Barnwell and illustrator Synthia Saint James's ebullient picture book, packaged with a CD of the song "No Mirrors in My Nana's House." The song itself, the heart of the book, was composed by Barnwell and sung by world-renowned a capella quintet "Sweet Honey in the Rock" for years. This soul-warming tribute in upbeat, five-part harmonies (deeply rooted in the spirituals, hymns, and gospel of the black church) enhances the book-reading experience a hundredfold. The CD's second track is a spoken-word recording of the story's text, voiced in rich, soothing tones and inflections. And just when you find yourself thinking, I want to listen to that again! the song begins anew on the CD's third track.
Nana's house had no mirrors to reflect her granddaughter's clothes that didn't fit, or "the things that she missed." When the girl viewed the world through her Nana's eyes she saw love and beauty, not poverty or racism. Saint James's artwork is colorful and stylized--the characters have no faces, but their movements--arms outstretched, exalted; a loving embrace between the grandmother and granddaughter--communicate plenty of emotion. Saint James has illustrated several other picture books including The Gifts of Kwanzaa and Neeny Coming, Neeny Going, which won a Coretta Scott King Honor Award. This gorgeous book and CD package would make a wonderful gift for any youngster--and the melodies, rhythms, and bold, bright images promise to linger in the minds and hearts of children long after the book is closed. (Ages 4 and older) --Karin Snelson
Ages 4^-8. "There were no mirrors in my Nana's house . . . / so the beauty that I saw in everything / the beauty in everything / was in her eyes / like the rising of the sun." A young black girl is inspired by her life in which no mirrors constrict her view of herself and where she is intrigued by the cracks on the walls and "tastes with joy the dust that would fall." The sentiment that children can rise above their environment is reassuring and uplifting; however, several lines take the concept a bit far ("the trash and the rubbish just cushioned my feet"). Saint James illustrates the text in acrylics, but the effect is of collage. Shapes of pure colors become people, furniture, apartment buildings, boom boxes. This wonderfully eye-catching mix will work for individual readers or groups. Barnwell is a member of Sweet Honey in the Rock, an a cappella rock group; a CD of their song version of the text is part of the package. Ilene Cooper