cover image Hey Black Child

Hey Black Child

Useni Eugene Perkins, illus. by Bryan Collier. Little, Brown, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-316-36030-2

Perkins’s 1975 poem, originally written as song lyrics (and sometimes misattributed to Countee Cullen or Maya Angelou), features compact, rhythmic language that’s both avuncular and commandingly rhetorical (“Hey Black Child/ Do you know who you are/ Who you really are”). Collier (City Shapes) uses a combination of dense, burnished watercolors—the texture often mimics acrylics—and photo collage to imagine the possibilities open to empowered African-American children. Each stanza begins with a close, almost photorealistic portrait of a confident, happy child; subsequent pages show how the child’s passion, coupled with a proud sense of heritage, leads him or her to become someone who helps make “your nation/ what you want it to be.” A girl with eager, bespectacled eyes and a bright smile stands beside a telescope and knows she can become an astronaut; a boy inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement sees a future in politics. Perkins’s poem has always made for a stirring recitation; new and old fans will find that Collier’s images do full justice to it. Ages 4–8. Illustrator’s agent: Marcia Wernick, Wernick & Pratt. (Nov.)