cover image Uptown


Bryan Collier. Henry Holt & Company, $17.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8050-5721-8

Collier's (These Hands) watercolor and collage artwork effectively blends a boy's idealism with the telling details of the city streets in this picture book tour of Harlem. Played out to the refrain of ""Uptown is...,"" a boy makes the rounds of his neighborhood, starting with the Metro-North train as it crosses the Harlem River (""Uptown is a caterpillar""). Readers see him shopping on 125th Street, where ""the vibe is always jumping as people bounce to their own rhythms,"" listening to music (""Uptown is jazz""), playing basketball and more. From Van Der Zee photographs to the Apollo Theater to the Boys Choir of Harlem, Collier touches on a host of icons; he infuses the volume with a sense of community--musicians improvise, men gather in a barbershop, a trio of sisters in matching dresses head off to church. The artwork creates an inviting visual riff with a pastiche of watercolor portraits, fabric scraps, photographs, wallpaper snippets and newsprint; and both text and art capture a child's sense of perspective and imagination (Collier represents brownstones that the boy thinks ""look like they're made of chocolate"" with photos of Cadbury bars that double as architectural detail). ""Uptown is home,"" says the narrator, concluding on a note of affection and pride for his neighborhood that informs every page. Ages 4-8. (June)