cover image There Was a Party for Langston

There Was a Party for Langston

Jason Reynolds, illus. by Jerome and Jarrett Pumphrey. Atheneum/Dlouhy, $18.99 (56p) ISBN 978-1-5344-3944-3

The creators’ high-stepping testament to the enduring cultural influence of Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes (1901–1967) begins with the promise of a party: “a jam in Harlem to celebrate the word-making man.” Rhythmic lines from Newbery Honoree Reynolds, making his picture book debut, aptly describe Hughes as “the best word maker around./ Could make the word MOTHER feel/ like real warm arms wrapped around you.” In illustrations rendered with handmade stamps, Ezra Jack Keats Award Honorees the Pumphrey brothers apply stylized typography throughout, as on a page in which mother makes up the figure of a parent embracing a child. In the run-up to the party, pages hint at Hughes’s ability to turn words into laughter that “rang out/ for years and years.” And so, in 1991 at the NYPL’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, “a fancy-foot,/ get-down,/ all-out bash” is held in the poet’s honor. There, the works of other Black writers peer out from book spines, and literary successors Maya Angelou and Amiri Baraka dance “like the best words do, together.” Melding celebratory text and kinetic, graphical art, the creators underscore the power of the subject’s poetry to move and to inspire. Figures are portrayed with brown skin throughout. An author’s note concludes. Ages 4–8. Author’s agent: Elena Giovinazzo, Pippin Properties. Illustrators’ agent: Hannah Mann, Writers House. (Oct.)