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