Tag Archives: Caldecott Award

Harlem: A Poem by Walter Dean Myers

14 Apr

In honor of National Poetry Month and Perfect Picture Book Friday, I’m shining the spotlight on a brilliant Caldecott and Coretta Scott King Award Winner from 1997:

“They took to the road in Waycross, Georgia

Skipped over the tracks in East St. Louis

Took the bus from Holly Springs

Hitched a ride from Gee’s Bend

Took the long way through Memphis

The third deck down from Trinidad

A wrench of heart from Gorree Island 

A wrench of heart from Gorree Island

To a place called Harlem

Harlem was a promise

Of a better life, of a place where a man didn’t

Have to know his place

Simply because he was Black.”

 

Thus begins a tactile and rhythmic journey through Harlem. This book may have been written twenty years ago, but it feels quite contemporary. Current nonfiction writers are increasingly telling the stories of people, events, or places with similar atmospheric details and poetic language. Walter Dean Myers was far ahead of his time.  

The only thing missing is back matter. The names of people and places are sprinkled throughout, but if you want to know more, you must do the research. If this book were being published in 2017, you can bet the back matter would be rich with details, including a timeline with key events and people as well as author/illustrator notes. 

Although Walter Dean Myers has passed, I would love to see a new edition of this book published, complete with back matter and an illustrator’s note from Christopher Myers, Walter’s son. 

The collage illustrations add so much texture to the poem that I would recommend reading the picture book. However, if you just want to immerse yourself in Myers’ poem, here’s a link to the text of “Harlem” online. 

Title: Harlem

Author: Walter Dean Myers

Illustrator: Christopher Myers

Publisher: Scholastic Press, 1997

Target Audience: Everyone

What do David Shannon and My Son Have in Common?

19 Feb

According to my 10-year-old son, the American Revolution can be distilled to four panels (click photo to enlarge):

IMG_2797

History of the American Revolution

He loved drawing this cartoon and spent a couple of joyful hours completely absorbed in his work. Note that the Loyalist character’s voice comes from off the page, showing how the Loyalists either operated under cover, “lost their shirts,” or returned to England.

But it wasn’t until much later that he noticed that the British musket in the second panel doesn’t match the musket shown in the fourth. He asked if this was a big mistake. In his case, I said “no,” but then I went on to describe a recent case taken from the adult world:

David Shannon gave a keynote talk this past weekend at the Golden Gate SCBWI conference where he showed his book, Duck on a Bike (2006), to the audience. Continue reading

%d bloggers like this: