cover image Black Magic

Black Magic

Dinah Johnson, , illus. by R. Gregory Christie . Holt/Ottaviano, $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8050-7833-6

If never quite reaching the realm of “magic,” this expressive book combines well-matched text and pictures to pay tribute to the myriad qualities of blackness. Buoyant yet reflective, Johnson’s (Hair Dance! ) free-flowing verse presents an imaginative girl’s musings on the essence of black, which she sees as containing multitudinous, even oppositional, dimensions (“Black is big like a star-filled sky/ and tiny like the sparkle in my daddy’s eye/ when he hugs me with his strong black arms”). Most associations involve sensations, emotions, or sounds, but several focus on the tangible: “Black is silky like my puppy, Ebony./ Black is shiny like my brother’s new car” (which is, as it happens, red). The narrative also takes some fanciful leaps, as in “Black is majestic like a baobab tree that you can see/ if you go with me to Mali/ in my dream.” With vibrant colors offsetting velvety black images, Christie’s (Bad News for Outlaws ) acrylic gouache illustrations playfully tweak perspective and scale, echoing the verse’s energy and fluidity. There are moments of pensiveness and uncertainty, but the overall atmosphere is of possibility and cheer. Ages 5–9. (Jan.)