Langston Hughes American poet

Alice Walker, 1944-

Book - 1998

An illustrated biography of the Harlem poet whose works gave voice to the joy and pain of the black experience in America.

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New York : HarperCollins 1998.
Main Author
Alice Walker, 1944- (-)
Other Authors
Catherine Deeter (illustrator)
Physical Description
37 p. : ill
Contents unavailable.
Review by Booklist Review

These four new titles add to the growing number of books about Hughes published for young people. Rhynes' I, Too, Sing America, in the World Writers series, is the most traditional biography of the group. Chapters follow Hughes' life from birth to death, covering major relationships and events, as well as Hughes' intellectual and artistic ideas and efforts. The text is informative but dry, often switching abruptly between events. Best are the numerous quotes and the links between Hughes' work and personal life and descriptions that show the difficulty of a writer's life. A chronology, extensive sources notes, and a bibliography will make this useful for reports, and browsers will like the black-and-white photos. Walker's picture-book-size biography Langston Hughes: American Poet, first published in 1974, returns to print with lively new artwork. It is an excellent introduction to Hughes, focusing mainly on his adolescence and early adulthood. The text is romanticized in places, but the engaging, anecdotal style is perfect for read-alouds, and the brief sentences and simple vocabulary make the book a good choice for beginning and struggling readers. Deeter's realistic paintings capture the text's pivotal moments. Medina's Love to Langston uses poetry to tell Hughes' life story, presenting traditional biographical information in appended notes. Many poems focus on events in Hughes' life, and Medina often uses verse to define historical terms: "Jim Crow is a law / that separates white and black / making white feel better / and black feel left back." Some selections move beyond biography to celebrate Hughes' passions--jazz, literature, and the Harlem streets--and the sliding, syncopated beats and unexpected rhymes are reminiscent of spoken-word poetry. The art is uneven; the self-conscious, awkward angles of Christie's naive-style paintings are at odds with the celebratory mood of many poems, drowning out some of the subtle wordplay. Nonetheless, teachers and students will welcome this creative effort, particularly when the text is read with the concluding notes. In Visiting Langston, Perdomo offers a poetic tribute that celebrates Hughes' legacy rather than the events of his life. "Today I'm going to wear / My favorite pink blouse / I'm going with my daddy / to visit Langston's house," begins the rhymed text, written in an unnamed girl's voice. The child tells a bit about Hughes in a few oblique lines but mostly talks about herself--her likes and dislikes, her poetry, and the affinity she feels for Hughes. The brief lines sometimes scan awkwardly, interfering with the poem's momentum, but the girl's fierce pride, excitement, and curiosity will grab readers, as will Collier's exquisite collages, which mix rich textures, urban scenes, and contemporary people celebrating the impact of a legend's words. A page of facts and a listing of Hughes' works provide the only standard biographical information. The picture-book format may deter some older children, but many will be drawn to the book by its vibrant, sophisticated images, strong voice, and the speaker's powerful invitation to find oneself within the work and lives of legendary artists. Gillian Engberg

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

"Deeter contributes imposing artwork to Walker's first book for children, originally published in 1974, impressively meshing realism and symbolism in her period paintings," wrote PW. Ages 7-11. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by School Library Journal Review

Gr 2-5-This text originally published in 1974 is accompanied by new, colorful paintings. In clear but at times dry prose, the author reveals the many influences that led Hughes to become who he was. He was raised by a loving grandmother and by a mother who had difficulty finding jobs. He dealt with loneliness, racism, and a distant father who, he realized, hated his own people-black Americans-as well as Native Americans. The artwork is rendered in lovely, inviting hues and softens the misery the narrative describes. For example, a depiction of young Langston meeting his estranged, bitter father shows the elder Hughes in a much warmer light than the wording might indicate. The new edition is larger in format than the older one and has a more modern picture-book feel, as well as an author's note. Two of Hughes's poems are included: "When Susanna Jones Wears Red" and "The Negro Speaks of Rivers." Walker's version balances Floyd Cooper's Coming Home (Philomel, 1994) by delving more into Hughes's adult life. An acceptable choice for poetry units and Black History Month.-Anne Chapman Callaghan, Racine Public Library, WI (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Horn Book Review

In honor of the centenary of Langston Hughes's birth, Alice Walker's first book for children has been reissued as a picture-book biography, with new full-color paintings. Walker knew and revered Hughes, and while this simply told biography is a sympathetic portrait of the man, it doesn't shy away from his difficult childhood and his encounters with racism throughout his life. From HORN BOOK Fall 2002, (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

The text of a 1974 picture-book biography of the poet Langston Hughes is reprinted, with new illustrations. The narrative focuses on Hughes's youth, describing how the break-up of his parents' marriage led to an unsettled childhood spent first with his storytelling grandmother and later, in adolescence, with his often unemployed mother. From these experiences, coupled with a disappointing relationship with his embittered father, grew Hughes's passion for setting down in verse his pride in his people. Unfortunately, the text itself demonstrates little passion, and almost no sense of poetry-a sad absence in a book about one of the 20th-century's greatest American poets. An author's note, new for this edition, indicates that a passion for the subject is there, despite appearances; it seems that here Walker has simply succumbed to the "dumbing-down" syndrome that afflicts so many writers for adults when they turn their pens to children's books. The elegance of her prose for adults is largely missing in this offering, which features choppy, pedestrian language instead: "This [discrimination] made Langston mad. He thought it was stupid for white people not to hire him just because his skin was black." Deeter's muted illustrations do little to compensate for the lackluster text; mostly static, they at times verge on the sentimental. One exception to this is a striking, Dillon-like composition that pictures a monumental black man growing organically out of the land around the Mississippi; this accompanies one of the two poems included in the text, "The Negro Speaks of Rivers." The writer of those poems deserves better than this. No bibliography or source notes are included. (Picture book/biography. 7-10)

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.