cover image Harlem at Four

Harlem at Four

Michael Datcher, illus. by Frank Morrison. Random House Studio, $18.99 (48p) ISBN 978-0-5934-2933-4

A child named Harlem—“named after the Harlem Renaissance,” per an author’s note—is celebrated alongside the time frame and neighborhood after which she’s named in this lyrical picture book ode. The two-part narrative opens on the four-year-old child (who displays “Malcolm X/ Boulevard/ Corner speaker confidence”) and her adoring father. Their Harlem neighborhood days involve listening to John Coltrane and Miles Davis, and visiting Basquiat paintings at Studio Museum Harlem. The story’s second half introduces the neighborhood in 1904, when “The Father of Harlem/ Philip A. Payton, Jr.” buys buildings to rent to “Brownstone-colored families” blocked “from white blocks’/ Brownstones.” Though the sections only conceptually connect, and references to some figures go undefined until back matter, Datcher’s affectionate lines and Morrison’s luminous portraiture result in a loving past-and-present look at two Harlems. Ages 4–8. (Sept.)