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The Blacker the Berry (Ala Notable Children's Books. Middle Readers) Hardcover – July 1, 2008

4.8 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 1–4—The varieties of African-American ethnic heritage are often rendered invisible by the rigid construction of racial identity that insists on polarities. This collection of 12 poems makes the complexities of a layered heritage visible and the many skin shades celebrated. Read-aloud-sized spreads offer luminous artwork that complements the verses in which children speak of their various hues: "I am midnight and berries…" a child says in the title poem. In another selection, a boy recalls his Seminole grandmother who has given him the color of "red raspberries stirred into blackberries." In "Cranberry Red," a child asserts that "it's my Irish ancestors/Who reddened the Africa in my face," understanding that "When we measure who we are/We don't leave anybody out." The large illustrations match the lyrical poetry's emotional range. Cooper's method includes "pulling" the drawing out from a background of oil paint and glazes. With his subtractive method, he captures the joy of these children—the sparkle of an eye, the width of a grin, the lovely depths of their skin, and the light that radiates from within. This book complements titles that explore identity, such as Katie Kissinger's All the Colors We Are (Redleaf, 1994).—Teresa Pfeifer, Alfred Zanetti Montessori Magnet School, Springfield, MA
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From Booklist

Black comes in all shades from dark to light, and each is rich and beautiful in this collection of simple, joyful poems and glowing portraits that show African American diversity and connections. In the title poem, a smiling girl says, “Because I am dark, the moon and stars shine brighter.” Other pages have fun with terms, such as skin deep and night shade. A grandma turns “Coffee will make you black”  from a warning into something great. A boy is proud to be raspberry black as he reads his great-great-grandmother’s journal about her love for her Seminole Indian husband. A girl says she is “cranberry red” from her father’s Irish ancestry. In the final, joyful double-page spread, the kids celebrate their individual identities and laugh together. Many families will want to talk about this and their own family roots: “We count who we are / And add to all who came before us.” Preschool-Grade 2. --Hazel Rochman
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 4 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 3
  • Series: Ala Notable Children's Books. Middle Readers
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Amistad; First Edition edition (July 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060253754
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060253752
  • Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 0.4 x 11.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #408,768 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By V. King on March 24, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I found this book while searching for more children's books with African-American protagonists to include in my classroom library and immediately bought myself a copy. However, the book is so good that I didn't keep it long and had to pass it along to my best friend and her husband who, as an interracial couple, have biracial children. They loved seeing their kids represented within the pages and given a voice. The small details in each poem--from the child with red hair to the little girl who still loves her "one drop" despite people thinking she's not black enough--provide a window into the diversity of the African-American community while creating a sense of inclusion.
"The Blacker the Berry" gives voice to the experience of so many children and affirms the value and preciousness of the reader through each of the poems. Floyd Cooper's illustrations are incredible and provide an added weight to each poem. The children come alive and off the page.
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Format: Hardcover
I love, love, love this book. As I read these evocative poems, I got a lump in my throat; don't we all want the children around us to feel this great about themselves? The words are perfect, and the illustrations--well, I think they should win an award, yes, still, two years after publication. The tie-ins of self-image, self-esteem and nature are just impeccable.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is a collection of deep heartfelt poems all relating to race and the writers feelings about their individual race. While it's a children's book, the issues presented in this book are mature and probably geared toward older audiences like 4th or 5th graders or higher. The pictures in the book have vivid colors and the feelings are projected strongly through the illustrations. The poems themselves are all different accounts of people's struggles and triumphs with their ethnicities. This book would be a good account to share with a classroom on a lesson about differences and equality among a diverse population. In some of the pictures the characters feelings are so easily projected that the reader can almost feel what the character was feeling and that is what I liked most about the book. It contained a lot of pathos and emotional appeal is guaranteed to be felt by the reader of any age
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Format: Hardcover
The Blacker the Berry is a beautiful picture/poetry book for children (ages 5-14). This book celebrates every shade of beautiful black from "Raspberry Black" to "Golden Goodness" and every wonderful skin tone in between. The author uses such beautiful and rich language to give pride, celebration and unity of all children, in particular African American children, no matter the shade of their skin. The poetry and the illustrations work together to create a world full of laughter, happiness and strength. This book is also an Illustrator Coretta Scott King Award winner and is well deserving for the celebratory illustrations. This should be a book that is present in every household with children and every classroom!
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Format: Hardcover
The Blacker the Berry the Sweeter the Juice is a magnificent collection of poems about all the different shades of skin someone of color can be. Joyce Carol Thomas has an awe-inspiring way with words. When you read this book, you can hear Thomas's tone and rhythm and it add even more beauty to the experience that this book captures. This book would be of great use to any teacher completing a unit in poetry because not only is it outstanding poetry, it adds a multicultural frame of reference to the classroom as well. The illustrations by Floyd Cooper are breathtaking and will take you to a warm place with a cool breeze, leaving you with the most peaceful feeling. A copy of this book should be put in every classroom! No matter what color, any child can take away a powerful lesson from this book. Have pride in who you are and always love yourself and your roots!
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Format: Hardcover
This was a fun book to read, not just because of the simple but educational poetry, but also because the artwork is engaging. It must have taken Cooper a long time to paint them because of their photo-realistic quality. It's also a great book for young African American children to read in order to see the differences in their culture and why some of their own kin may look completely different than they do. I especially liked the line where a girl claims to be "cranberry red" from her father's Irish heritage. I recommend it to learning readers from ages 3 - 8.

-Lindsey Miller, [...]
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