Perdomo (Where a Nickel Costs a Dime) captures the excitement of an African-American girl anticipating a visit to the Harlem brownstone of Langston Hughes. The narrator, an aspiring writer, expresses her enthusiasm from the opening lines: "Today I'm going to wear/ My favorite pink blouse/ I'm going with my daddy/ To visit Langston's house." Throughout, Collier's (Uptown) heady blend of watercolor and mixed media collage evokes the history of the writer's life and times. In the opening spread, a black-and-white painting depicting Jazz Era scenes hangs on the wall as the girl sits smiling on a couch, clutching a notebook and pen. In a kind of meditation on the poet, subsequent spreads incorporate elements of that painting, which hangs in the girl's living room: for instance, bass players and a pianist inhabit the space behind Langston at his typewriter ("Langston/ Langston/ Langston Hughes/ Wrote poems/ Like jazz"). Collier then shows the girl kneeling to read the paper in Hughes's typewriter. In the end, Perdomo adds a twist: the girl and her father stand before the doors of Langston's house and the opening lines repeat; she sits on the couch in the next spread but, this time, her notebook is open. "Langston/ Langston," says the girl. "I write poetry/ Just like Langston Hughes." Is she writing about the trip she just made? Or is she imagining the visit to come? An opening note provides a brief biographical sketch. An inspired—and inspiring—introduction to the legendary writer. Ages 4-8. (Feb.)
FYI:Langston Hughes would have celebrated his 100th birthday on February 1. This and two other titles commemorate his life and work:
Love to Langston by Tony Medina, illus. by R. Gregory Christie (Lee & Low, reviewed Dec. 17, 2001) and
Langston Hughes: American Poet by Alice Walker, illus. by Catherine Deeter (HarperCollins/Amistad, reviewed Nov. 19, 2001).