Review of Harlem at Four

Harlem at Four Harlem at Four
by Michael Datcher; illus. by Frank Morrison
Preschool, Primary    Random House Studio/Random    48 pp.
9/23    9780593429334    $18.99
Library ed.  9780593429341    $21.99
e-book ed.  9780593429358    $10.99

Datcher divides his narrative into two parts. First is a Black father’s loving tribute to his daughter, four-year-old Harlem. Championed by her father for her “Malcolm X Boulevard Corner speaker confidence,” Harlem struts down the steps of their building’s front stoop, past a mural of Tupac and street musicians playing jazz. They end up at a museum where they see works by artists such as Romare Bearden and Jean-Michel Basquiat. The next day is all about “Harlem & Daddy’s Early-Morning Science Club,” then playing music together, and a painting session. Part two celebrates their Harlem neighborhood, honoring the work of Philip A. Rayton Jr., who founded the Afro American Realty Company in 1904, and the “loving pioneers of the Great Black Migration.” Datcher’s tight free verse presents the love between a father, his daughter, their community, and their history. Morrison’s (2023 CSK Illustrator Award for Standing in the Need of Prayer, rev. 9/22) distinctive illustrations truly shine with elongated figures and his distinctive use of color. The bright pinks of daughter Harlem’s world warm to rich sepia tones of turn-of-the-previous-century Harlem. Information about people and places mentioned in the text and illustrations is appended along with selected sources. Fans of Cherry and Harrison’s Hair Love (also centering a father and daughter) will enjoy this love letter to a neighborhood, family, and Black history.

From the September/October 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Eboni Njoku
Eboni Njoku is a children’s librarian at the Anacostia Neighborhood Library Branch of the DC Public Library.

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