cover image Black Girl You Are Atlas

Black Girl You Are Atlas

Renée Watson, illus. by Ekua Holmes. Kokila, $18.99 (96p) ISBN 978-0-593-46170-9

Watson (Maya’s Song) crafts a semi-autobiographical collection that speaks to the girl she was in her youth and the expansive experience of Black girlhood as it cycles toward womanhood via sharp and loving poetry. Accompanied by striking and vintage-feeling multimedia collage artwork by Holmes (Coretta), the poems evolve in step with the protagonist they portray as priorities shift, detailing new fears surrounding never having seen snow before (“snow for me was new/ because I was only three when we left Paterson/ and my tiny feet didn’t know snow”), meeting her father for the first time, learning about injustice, and practicing self-love (“Be a best friend to yourself. Be an enemy only to injustice, to hate.... Be your own hype crew”). Watson utilizes myriad poetic styles to address various topics, such as growing up Jamaican American in Portland, Ore. A series of haiku on sisterhood highlight the poet’s deep admiration of her ancestors, future descendants, and the Black women she grew up with, and poems “A Pantoum for Breonna Taylor” and “A Tanka for Michelle Obama” mourn and laud Black women in equal measure, making for a tender ode to universal yearnings for safety, love, and justice, as well as a celebration of Black girlhood. Ages 12–up. (Feb.)