Review of Finding Langston

Finding Langston
by Lesa Cline-Ransome
Intermediate, Middle School     Holiday     107 pp.
8/18     978-0-8234-3960-7     $16.99
e-book ed. 978-0-8234-4110-5     $16.99

When Langston’s mother dies, his father relocates the two of them from rural Alabama to the Bronzeville neighborhood of Chicago, where they live in a cramped apartment, barely communicate with each other, and stifle their grief. It’s the 1940s; his father works long hours at a paper plant, and school is a dreadful place where Langston is bullied for being a “country boy.” Then Langston discovers the George Cleveland Hall Branch of the Chicago Public Library,  here he finds the poetry of Langston Hughes. Struck by their shared name, Langston checks out the books and hides them from kids at school and his father, reading them in brief snatches when nobody is around. Is there a connection between himself and Langston Hughes? Reading poetry becomes Langston’s way to keep his mother’s memory alive, find solace from grief, and make a friend. Written in short chapters, this crisply paced book is full of historical details of the Great Migration and the role a historic branch library played in preserving African American literary culture. “The library and Langston Hughes ’bout the only thing that kept me going without my mama,” Langston says, a sentiment that may resonate with any child who has experienced grief or loneliness, or has had a strong connection to literature.

From the September/October 2018 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.
Julie Hakim Azzam
Julie Hakim Azzam
Julie Hakim Azzam teaches in the English department at the University of Pittsburgh. While her academic specialization is on literature from Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia, she has a passion for children’s literature and has been interviewing children’s authors for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for many years.

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