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Tar Beach (Caldecott Honor Book) Hardcover – January 16, 1991

4.6 out of 5 stars 59 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

"Quilt paintings"--acrylic on canvas paper, with fabric borders from Ringgold's story quilt of the same name--illustrate a Depression era girl's imaginative foray to heights from which she can see and therefore claim her world. Picnicking on the roof of her family's Harlem apartment building--a "tar beach" to which they bring fried chicken and roasted peanuts, watermelon and beer, and, not least, friends and laughter--Cassie pictures herself soaring above New York City: above the George Washington Bridge, which her father helped build; above the headquarters of the union that has denied him membership, because he's black; above the rooms in which they live. Ringgold's strong figures and flattened perspective bring a distinctive magic to this dreamy and yet wonderfully concrete vision, narrated in poetic cadences that capture the language and feel of flight. Ages 4-8.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

Grade 1 Up--Tar Beach is a work of modern art translated into a children's picture book, and the adaptation is so natural that it seems inevitable. From her 1988 story quilt, reproduced on the cover and within the last pages of the book, Ringgold has taken both the setting and the text. The painted scene in the center of the quilt shows a Harlem rooftop on a starry night with four adults playing cards and with Cassie Louise Lightfoot and her brother, Be Be, lying on a blanket gazing at the sky. Cassie sees herself flying over the city lights; dreams of wearing the George Washington Bridge as a necklace; imagines giving her father the union building he is not allowed to join because of his half-black, half-Indian heritage; flies over the ice cream factory; and takes her little brother with her to the sky. Cassie's story, written along the borders of the quilt in tiny script, becomes the text of the book. The illustrations painted for the book version are done in the same colorful, naive style as the quilt. This type of art translates beautifully into the storybook format, and a border of bright fabric designs on the bottom of each page duplicates the material used in the quilt. In capturing the euphoria of a child's dreams, and in its gentle reminder of the social injustices of the adult world, the book is both universal and contemporary. --Shirley Wilton, Ocean County College, Toms River, NJ
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 5 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: Kindergarten - 3
  • Lexile Measure: 790L (What's this?)
  • Series: Caldecott Honor Book
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers; 1st edition (January 16, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0517580306
  • ISBN-13: 978-0517580301
  • Product Dimensions: 9.7 x 0.4 x 12.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (59 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #300,702 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
In Faith Ringgold's Tar Beach, eight-year-old Cassie Louise Lightfoot expresses her wishes and dreams. The story takes place in 1939 on the tarred flat roof of her family's Harlem apartment building where her family and friends gather in the warm summer night air. While Cassie enjoys and appreciates her family, her boundless imagination transcends debilitating socioeconomic boundaries and allows her to feel self-confident and capable of anything. Through both the inspirational text and illustrations, Ringgold urges that life's circumstances, no matter how hurtful, should not be taken at face value. Instead, one's attitude can overcome and triumph over anything.
Ringgold's depiction of an African American female greatly furthers the effectiveness of Tar Beach. Cassie is a strong young lady who will not rely on a prejudiced society to determine her future. Rather, she constantly creates her own ambitions, regardless of how radical or impractical they may seem. For instance, Cassie dreams of her father being rich, having a more respected job, and even owning The Union Building. The character of Cassie encourages limitless dreams, especially for young African American readers.
Cassie's model attitude is conveyed through her imagery-rich narrative that faces adversity head on. Her father is a blue-collar construction worker who must search for jobs in the winter. Society also excludes him from the privileges of union membership because he is "colored" and considered a "half-breed Indian." In addition, Cassie's family doesn't have much money.
Yet despite all this, Cassie says she feels "rich" from "lying on the roof in the night, with stars and skyscraper buildings all around [her].
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The best scenario: The child has been to a museum and viewed the quilt "Tar Beach" or has spent a summer evening on the roof of a New York City building that doesn't have air conditioning and knows that there is no actual beach in the book. That is not an inference a child would make on his or her own.
As neither of these things are likely, I found that there was a lot of peripheral information needed for a child of 9 to enjoy and understand the book. We looked at Faith Ringgold images on the net, especially her wonderful sculptures, so that one got the idea of who she is. I explained why a person building a bridge would be nicknamed a "half-breed indian" and what a "union" is and why that would be important. I was reading with a black child who recently arrived from her first home which was in England. She didn't know that African Americans were formerly known as colored, nor that there had been restrictions in America for African Americans (or in her case, British Americans of African origin). I probably should have begun with the Michael Venezia Book on Faith Ringgold which would have been more biographical in general, and then, later, to "Tar Beach" which was about the artist's relationship to that one work of art.
So, this is a good book, which needs adult guidance. The little girl for whom I bought the book liked it and it helped her understand how her grandpa, who now lives in Miami, grew up as a little boy in Harlem.
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A Kid's Review on March 4, 2002
Format: Paperback
Tar Beach
The name of the book I'm reading is Tar Beach,the author is Faith Ringold. The book is published by Dragontly books. There are 24 pages, the ages should be 8-10 years of age. The main character is a girl who dreams she can fly over many things. I don't know why the call it Tar Beach, because it is not really a beach at all. My cousin has a connection to the book, because he dreams he can fly to. My unanswered questions are dose her dad lose his job, and dose she ever dream of flying again after she gets in trouble from her dad? My least favorite thing is when they said her dad was going to lose is job. My most favorite thing is when she said she had ice cream every day for dessert. I like it because the girl has a good imagnain. The book I think should have 4 stars, because she helpped her father build thier house, help around the house, and help her mom make dinner. I think Faith Ringold should make a version two of this book and tell if her dad lost is job, and if they took down the icecream factory. The book is really good because she really exspress the characters feelings about where she lives, and what she lives like. Dad feels horrible when he finds out he is going losing his job. Mom says it is okay, because she is steal working and she gets a lot of money. The daughter is telling dad that mom is right. After a month or so Janet has to stop going to school. I think you should read this book. I think you would like it to. So go to the public library and check out Tar Beach!
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This book gave the impression it would be a magical bed-time story.. till I crashed head first into some pretty hard topics that where just casually spit a few pages in and with no explanation, then just as quickly the story went back to child dream world. It was brutally random and not my idea of light reading before putting a 5 year old to bed. Racist insults (colored half-breed Indian) where thrown and the stereotypical meal of fried chicken, watermelon and beer put the bow on the mind fudge I was put through as I read out-loud in dumb shock.

This is not a book for kids under 10 and its not a casual story you can just read and then follow up with another (my kids and I will go through 2-3 books to kick back for fun before bed). This a book to be studied and discussed seriously, I just can't imagine a child enjoying it truly, not the actual text anyway. The art is pretty though, that is about it.

I bought this by mistake, I thought it was another story about a little girl enjoying playing on her tar covered roof.. I read it as a kid and loved it.. this aint it. And as a mutt breed with mixed kids of my own, this is not a book I will be keeping in my personal library, its getting donated tomorrow. There are better books for children that introduce these topics (racism etc) & those I do keep.
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