cover image Hold Them Close: A Love Letter to Black Children

Hold Them Close: A Love Letter to Black Children

Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow, illus. by Patrick Dougher with photographs by Jamel Shabazz. HarperCollins, $18.99 (48p) ISBN 978-0-06-303617-8

Thompkins-Bigelow (Abdul’s Story) pens a stirring free verse love letter to Black children and community, carrying readers through a range of experiences to be held tight or dismissed: “When happy things come to you,/ hold them close and never let go.” A lyrically wrought litany of things to retain includes “that one time when you just/ knew you had slam-dunked the sun,” the eyes of children and of elders, and moments of freedom and joy: “the stories the grown folks tell of your greatness... of changemakers and truth-tellers and the first ones to break through.” Shabazz (Back in the Days, for adults) provides contemporary photographs to which fine artist Dougher contributes intricate mixed-media collage, gold leaf crowns, and portrayals of Black individuals across time; in one spread, Assata Shakur, Sojourner Truth, and Malcolm X appear in the windows of a Black Wall Street building. The resulting images—of contemporary community and historical figures united by a single painted white ribbon that soars from spread to spread—simultaneously emphasize a painful past, a tumultuous present, and a hopeful future, making for a tribute both sobering and jubilant. Back matter includes author’s and illustrator’s notes. Ages 4–8. Author’s agent: Essie White, Storm Literary. (Oct.)