cover image Rum-A-Tum-Tum


Angela Shelf Medearis. Holiday House, $16.95 (1pp) ISBN 978-0-8234-1143-6

""Every morning when I open my eyes,/ my ears wake up to the street vendors' cries."" The narrator of this buoyant, percussive verse is an African American girl in New Orleans in the early 1900s. These ""street cries"" are the ""poetic advertisements salespeople all over America used before the invention of television and radio,"" as Medearis (The Singing Man) relates in an author's note. Her format harmonizes the girl's narration with these catchy calls (""Okra, cucumbers,/ squash and potatoes,/ come and sample/ my plump tomatoes"") to convey the daily sensual feast that was the French Quarter marketplace. In characteristically effulgent, brushy, naturalistic paintings, Ransome (The Creation) captures the girl's joie de vivre, the lusciousness of fresh produce, the somberness of a passing funeral and the pulse of a parade, pairing street scenes with loving close-ups of plump berries and piles of vegetables. Together the deft, energetic paintings and the vibrant text make jazzy music out of the rhythms of a bygone daily life. For an exceptional treatment of very similar material, see Alan Schroeder and Bernie Fuchs's Carolina Shout! Ages 4-8. (Apr.)