cover image Sail Away

Sail Away

Langston Hughes, illus. by Ashley Bryan. S&S/Atheneum, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-4814-3085-2

Hughes may be best known for his work tied to questions of racial and national identity, yet these 15 collected poems%E2%80%94about the movement of water, the sea, and its travelers%E2%80%94show a more playful side of the poet. The first entry, "Catch," is about the courtship between a human and a mermaid ("Being a fisher boy,/ He'd found a fish/ To carry%E2%80%94/ Half fish,/ Half girl/ To marry"), while "Moonlight Night: Carmel" describes the sea after dark: "Tonight the waves march/ In long ranks/ cutting the darkness/ With their silver shanks." Each poem enjoys a spread of its own, and Bryan's kaleidoscopic cut-paper collages feature rolling, roiling waves whose shapes are echoed in drifts of clouds, beams of sunlight, and flowing tendrils of hair belonging to a cast of sailors, explorers, fishermen, and children. Bryan adds a personal homage to his mother, a note explains, by including images of her embroidery scissors on the endpapers (he used the same scissors to create his cutouts for the book). A vibrant pairing of poetry and art. Ages 4%E2%80%938. (Sept.)