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Review of Sugar Hill: Harlem’s Historic Neighborhood

weatherford_sugar hillSugar Hill: Harlem’s Historic Neighborhood
by Carole Boston Weatherford; 
illus. by R. Gregory Christie
Primary    Whitman    32 pp.
2/14    978-0-8075-7650-2    $16.99

“Sugar Hill, Sugar Hill where life is sweet” repeats throughout this rhymed tribute to Harlem’s storied neighborhood, the home of many well-to-do African Americans in the first half of the twentieth century. Although we are told about the “doctors and lawyers [who] live next door / to the owners of a corner store,” most of the book focuses on some of Sugar Hill’s most famous residents, particularly those who lived there during the Harlem Renaissance, such as Paul Robeson, Aaron Douglas, Lena Horne, Thurgood Marshall, and W. E. B. Du Bois. We also see Faith Ringgold as a child, with a visual reference to Tar Beach that many children will recognize. Some of Christie’s pastel-hued illustrations show us street views of the neighborhood and, through windows, offer glimpses into people’s lives (e.g., one picture shows Count Basie and Duke Ellington making music together while across the street we see Zora Neale Hurston working at her typewriter). The paintings and Weatherford’s poetry give a strong sense of vibrant simultaneous action, and neither slides into nostalgia. An author’s note provides some additional background on Sugar Hill, as well as a few lines about each of the famous people mentioned in the book.

From the May/June 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Kathleen T. Horning About Kathleen T. Horning

Kathleen T. Horning is the director of the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, a library of the School of Education, University of Wisconsin–Madison. She is the author of From Cover to Cover: Evaluating and Reviewing Children’s Books and teaches a popular online course for ALSC on the history of the Newbery and Caldecott medals.

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