Review of My Block Looks Like

My Block Looks Like My Block Looks Like
by Janelle Harper; illus. by Frank Morrison
Preschool, Primary    Viking    40 pp.
1/24    9780593526309    $18.99
e-book ed.  9780593526316    $10.99

Harper and Morrison’s vibrant picture book focuses on a Black tween girl’s trip through her city neighborhood on her way to a dance audition. She leaps—sometimes exuberantly blowing a pink bubble-gum bubble in the air—joyfully through scenes that include a subway, a street crossing, a busy playground, and other locations, with a multicultural group of people in the background. The narrator champions her neighborhood as a home to “brilliant minds” and “the birthplace of aerosol masterpieces, lyrical wordplay, and cardboard dance floors.” Morrison’s illustrations provide rich sensory detail and energy to support the narrator’s observations of those who “sparkle under streetlamps.” At the same time, words and images work collectively to challenge readers to slow down and pay attention to the wonders of city life that are easy to misunderstand or dismiss, as seen through the narrator’s experience. Though the narrator says, “The streets look mean / from a birds-eye view,” the text is a counternarrative for those with limited understandings of urban places that veer to the negative or deficit-based, challenging readers to “forget what you heard,” look closer, and stay awhile. Harper’s block (she hails from the Bronx) is alive, aptly called “my soul,” and supported by Morrison’s images and warm colors, a refreshing invitation to visit or imagine this memorable place.

Pubissue-From the March/April 2024 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Kim Parker

Dr. Kim Parker is Director of the Crimson Summer Academy at Harvard University, and co-chair of the Books for Black Children and Youth initiative of the Boston Network for Black Student Achievement. She served on the 2019 Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards committee.

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