cover image Harlem Renaissance Party

Harlem Renaissance Party

Faith Ringgold. HarperCollins/Amistad, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-06-057911-1

“The crowd roared. The celebration was on,” writes Caldecott Honoree artist Ringgold (Tar Beach), conjuring a magical celebration in which a boy named Lonnie and his uncle Bates meet the giants of the Harlem Renaissance. They eat chicken and waffles at Well’s, see a parade led by Marcus Garvey, meet a string of the era’s musicians and writers, and finally encounter the man Lonnie admires most—poet Langston Hughes. Lonnie is stage-struck. “Do you write, Mr. Lonnie?” Hughes asks him. “Yes, I guess so,” Lonnie answers. “Then you are a writer,” Hughes declares. Ringgold’s bold, heavily outlined figures give the heroes the look of icons, an effect enhanced by placing them against backdrops of hot red and bright blue. While the narrative and dialogue have the unfortunate air of textbook prose, cramming as much information into each episode as possible (“Mr. Robeson, you are a great singer, actor, and athlete”), there’s rich inspiration here, especially in Ringgold’s characterization of the African-American experience. “Black people didn’t come to America to be free,” Lonnie says. “We fought for our freedom by creating art, music, literature, and dance.” Ages 4–8. (Jan.)