Review of A Place Inside of Me: A Poem to Heal the Heart

A Place Inside of Me: A Poem to Heal the Heart
by Zetta Elliott; illus. by Noa Denmon
Primary, Intermediate    Farrar    32 pp.    g
7/20    978-0-374-30741-7    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-0-374-38863-8    $9.99

In this powerfully lyrical poem, Elliott articulates what resides “deep down inside” of the African American, skateboard-loving, first-person protagonist: joy, sorrow, fear, anger, hunger, pride, peace, and more. While the protagonist speaks, Denmon’s illustrations, primarily in blue, pale yellow, and mauve, depict the tween boy doing skateboard tricks (showing the bottom of his board that’s covered in peace and justice stickers) and spending time with friends, while muted backgrounds depict life in his urban neighborhood. This book delivers positivity, despite the inclusion of police brutality, a Black Lives Matter protest, and a vigil for the dead — all of which affirm the child’s realities. At school, when he presents his work to his classmates, great figures such as Mae Jemison, Jackie Robinson, Louis Armstrong, Maya Angelou, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King Jr. appear on the opposite mural-like page, inspiring him as he takes pride in the past. On a page with no white space, a group of multigenerational Black individuals with different skin tones, facial features, hairstyles, and expressions faces the reader. The boy declares them “triumphant & beautiful,” as faintly visible images of African women peer from the background, carrying baskets of food on their heads — referencing the ancestry of those in the foreground. A well-crafted, twenty-first-century love poem by two truth-telling Black women artists and activists.

From the November/December 2020 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Dr. Michelle H. Martin
Dr. Michelle H. Martin
Dr. Michelle H. Martin is the Beverly Cleary Professor for Children & Youth Services in the Information School at the University of Washington in Seattle.

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