by Langston Hughes
illustrations by students from the Harlem School of the Arts
Oxford University Press, 1994
This collection of poems by Langston Hughes (1901-1967) is delightful, and, fortunately for us readers, still available for sale at the publisher's website and in quite a few library collections. The alphabet book for children features whimsical three-dimensional illustrations by students from the Harlem School of the Arts—who must be in their thirties by now! I'll definitely be bringing it along to read to my second-grade friends when school starts up again. Sure, it's an ABC book, but it's not for babies: on the L page, the poem begins, "A lion in a zoo,/Shut up in a cage,/Lives a life/Of smothered rage."
Second graders love jokes, and they'll enjoy the humor here, too. Just one example is the bee poem in the lower photo. The kid-created art may even inspire a project or two. The artistic medium for the goose page looks like Sculpey, or maybe Play-Doh; the artists were in the early primary grades.
Hughes wrote a number of works for children, but The Sweet and Sour Animal Book was published some thirty years after he died. The manuscript was in his papers at Yale's Beinecke library. (For a good story about how it came to be published, see Megan Drennan's 1995 article at EdWeek.)
I photographed the street sign in Harlem at East 127th Street and Fifth Avenue, near where the author spent the last twenty years of his life. He lived in an apartment on the top floor of a brownstone there. The block of 127th between Fifth and Madison is known as Langston Hughes Place.
The Poetry Friday roundup for August 6th is at A(nother) Year of Reading.
The Sweet and Sour Animal Book is my sixth book for the Sealey Challenge.