cover image BE BOY BUZZ


bell hooks, , illus. by Chris Raschka. . Hyperion/Jump at the Sun, $16.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-7868-0814-4

This stunning volume celebrates all things boy. The creators of Happy to Be Nappy set the stage with the bold opening sortie: "I be boy" appears on the left of the spread, paired with a deceptively simple layering of rectangles in blue line that pulsates on the page; opposite, a thoughtful-looking fellow, all elbows and knees slightly bent, seems poised for action. This spare, poetic riff on young manhood plumbs the delights and contradictions of what it means to be a boy—particularly an African-American boy—in a brief handful of sentences and with a few well-placed pastel lines that imply motion and emotion. From boys soaring ("All bliss boy") to boys sulking ("All bad boy beast"—here Raschka conveys the mood with just the right-hand side of a furrowed brow, and two arms seemingly blocking readers from view), at play ("I be boy jumping") and at rest ("all think and dream time"), the words pinpoint boyhood's unflagging energy and exuberance, vulnerability ("Hug me close. Don't let me down") and attitude. Hooks's rhythmic blend of brevity and eloquence launches Raschka's trademark visual haiku. His series of watercolor and pastel portraits set off against a warm cappuccino backdrop conjures fingers and toes, features and squiggles of hair from simple sweeps of his brush, and evokes characters suffused with humanity and tenderness. The graceful design visually balances the spare text, lively portraits and geometric graphics—which harmoniously orbit the spreads. This life-affirming book will have readers as much "in love with being a boy" as are its own utterly irresistible characters. Ages 4-8. (Oct.)