cover image Creativity


John Steptoe, E. B. Lewis. Clarion Books, $17 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-395-68706-2

From the late Steptoe (1950-1989) comes a characteristically warm slice-of-life tale that also serves up a lesson or two about friendship and ethnic pride. When Charles's teacher explains that Hector, the new boy, is from Puerto Rico, Charles, an African American, is startled: ""How could that guy be from Puerto Rico? He was the same color as me, and I'm not from Puerto Rico."" The teacher supplies a few answers to that question, which becomes increasingly less important as Charles and Hector strike up a friendship. There's not a great deal to this plot: an excited Charles tells his parents his plans for ""teachin' [Hector] how to speak good English,"" and when Charles's mother laughs, Charles's father declares that he is simply ""bein' creative with his language""; ""creative,"" after a few explanations, becomes the term Charles uses to cement his bond with Hector. The characters here emerge bigger than the story, lifelike and immensely likable. Lewis (Big Boy) does them justice by not romanticizing anyone: the kids in the class, for example, pay attention to the teacher but their faces show a recognizable reserve. Instead, the artist relays the characters' affection through well-chosen compositions, placing his figures in natural but intimate relation to one another. All told, a book with heart. Ages 6-10. (Jan.)