cover image Bronzeville Boys and Girls

Bronzeville Boys and Girls

Gwendolyn Brooks, , illus. by Faith Ringgold. . HarperCollins/Amistad, $16.99 (48pp) ISBN 978-0-06029505-9

Brooks's deceptively simple poems for children combined with Ringgold's vibrant illustrations help to rejuvenate this collection first published in 1956. Inspired by Brooks's Chicago neighborhood, the events, feelings and thoughts of the children in the verse take on a timeless quality. The language and tone appear to be casual, but each poem is tightly constructed, rhythmic and distinctive. Whether the poem takes a child as its subject or unfolds in a child's voice, the images are universal. A new puppy has a "little wiggly warmness" and will not "mock the tears you have to hide." The snow is "white as milk or shirts./ So beautiful it hurts." Brooks's language remains economical yet astonishingly inventive. She describes how "Maurice importantly/ peacocks up and down./ Till bigly it occurs to him/ (It hits him like a slam)" that he won't be able to pack up his friends and take them along when he moves to another town. A few of the poems seem dated (kids call their mothers "Mother-dear," and when Paulette wants to run, her mother says "You're eight, and ready/ To be a lady") but on the whole, the collection will be as appealing to today's readers as it was to a child of the 1950s. Ringgold's bold illustrations, outlined with her signature thick black lines, are among some of her best and most narrative works since Tar Beach . She moves easily from cityscapes to cozy interior scenes around the family dinner table or singing at church. Ages 7-10. (Jan.)