Reviews of the 2018 CSK Illustrator Award winners


Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets
by Kwame Alexander with Chris Colderley and Marjory Wentworth; illus. by Ekua Holmes
Intermediate, Middle School, High School    Candlewick    50 pp.
3/17    978-0-7636-8094-7    $16.99

The title of this innovative poetry collection comes from Lucille Clifton, who wrote, “Poems come out of wonder, not out of knowing.” Twenty poems written by Alexander, Colderley, and Wentworth, each one “celebrating” another notable poet, are divided into three sections: “Got Style,” “In Your Shoes,” and “Thank You.” The poems in the first section pay tribute to highlighted poets by mimicking their styles. For instance, “Jazz Jive Jam” honors Langston Hughes: “On Saturday, my mama sang / a song that sounded blue. / Then Daddy made his trumpet cry— / I guess the rent is due.” “In Your Shoes” incorporates the feelings and themes of the select poets (e.g., Walter Dean Myers’s love of basketball), while the last section acknowledges and thanks particular poets. “No Idle Days,” about William Carlos Williams, refers to him as “a trendsetter / and a rule breaker / crafting / a new American voice // for people who / carry their plums / in brown / paper bags.” The celebrated poets here include Bashō, Rumi, Emily Dickinson, Gwendolyn Brooks, Chief Dan George, Pablo Neruda, Sandra Cisneros, and Billy Collins and represent a wide range of cultures and time periods. Holmes’s vibrant, arresting mixed-media collages, both full pages and double-page spreads, complement and extend the themes and rich imagery presented in the poems. Educators and librarians searching for books to introduce children to influential poets as well as model texts for writing poetry will welcome this stellar title. The book concludes with biographical information on the poets and a list placing each poet within his or her era. JONDA MCNAIR

From the May/June 2017 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


Honor Books

Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut
by Derrick Barnes; illus. by Gordon C. James
Primary   Millner/Bolden Books/Agate    32 pp.
10/17    978-1-57284-224-3    $17.95
e-book ed.  978-1-57284-808-5    $17.95

Brown skin, a dimpled smile, and a fresh haircut worthy of a standing ovation. Barnes takes a weekly, mundane activity for an African American boy — a trip to the barbershop — and shows its potential for boosting his self-esteem and therefore his place in the universe. The unnamed protagonist tells of his haircut from start to finish, narrating most of it in the second person, which invites all readers, regardless of ethnic background or hair texture, to witness and share in his experience. James’s color-saturated, full-page illustrations aptly capture the protagonist’s bravado, swagger, and even his humility, which he needs in accepting a post-cut kiss from his admiring mother. In the accompanying text, Barnes creatively portrays and affirms the boy’s hubris and hyperbole: he calls himself a “brilliant, blazing star” so bright that “they’re going to have to wear shades when they look up to catch your shine.” Alternately precise, metaphorical, and culturally specific, Barnes’s descriptions make each page a serendipity. In his afterword, Barnes notes that the barbershop and the church are “pretty much the only place in the black community where a boy is ‘tended to’ — treated like royalty.” A not-to-be-missed portrayal of the beauty of black boyhood. MICHELLE H. MARTIN

From the November/December 2017 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Before She Was Harriet
by Lesa Cline-Ransome; illus. by James E. Ransome
Primary    Holiday    32 pp.
11/17    978-0-8234-2047-6    $17.95
e-book ed.  978-0-8234-3892-1    $17.95

The Ransomes have crafted an evocative life story of Harriet Tubman, framed by her travels. On the first page, she gazes out at the reader as an elderly woman. In free verse, the text tells of Tubman’s past roles (in reverse chronological order) as suffragist, abolitionist, Union spy, nurse, conductor on the Underground Railroad (“Before she was Aunt Harriet / she was Moses”), and finally Araminta, the child whose father taught her to “read” the world around her so that she would one day be free and become, simply, Harriet. James Ransome’s arresting watercolor illustrations highlight Tubman’s face from different angles, always emphasizing her undaunted determination amidst obstacles, as she moves from place to place. The pictures offer visual details that will enhance readers’ knowledge of American history. On the title page, Tubman waits at a train station among travelers of different races, but when she finally boards the train (shown in the concluding pages of the book), an African American Pullman Porter assists her into a segregated car. When the last page returns to Tubman’s image as an old woman, preparing to undertake one more journey, the lines in her face reveal the toll fighting for justice has taken on her. MICHELLE H. MARTIN

From the January/February 2018 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

For more, click on the tag ALA Midwinter 2018.
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