cover image The Sweet and Sour Animal Book

The Sweet and Sour Animal Book

Langston Hughes. Oxford University Press, USA, $17.95 (48pp) ISBN 978-0-19-509185-4

What could possibly add to the excitement of publishing a long-lost manuscript by one of the century's most important African American writers? The folks at Oxford offer an inspired answer: a classroom full of young creative talent. In this fresh, imaginative alphabet book, 26 newly discovered poems by Hughes are teamed with 3-D works by first-, second- and third-graders at the Harlem School of the Arts. The result is a marvelous union of graphics and text, alight with color and whimsy. Hughes's poems are models of brevity and wit (``There was a camel/ Who had two humps./ He thought in his youth/ They were wisdom bumps./ Then he learned/ They were nothing but humps-/ And ever since he's/ Been in the dumps''). Called forth from these words, the students' menagerie-created from clay, paper, paint and cardboard, and unfettered by artistic preconceptions-are laugh-out-loud wonderful, from the solemn, pop-eyed flock of owls to the bright explosion of fish that graces the front cover. A foreword by Ben Vereen (a friend of Hughes) and afterword by George Cunningham give the book additional heft. All ages. (Oct.)