cover image DESHAWN DAYS


Tony Medina, , illus. by R. Gregory Christie. . Lee & Low, $16.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-1-58430-022-9

Medina (Love to Mamá: A Tribute to Mothers) attributes the first-person poems in his prosaic collection to 10-year-old DeShawn Williams, who invites readers to "come see who I live with—/ who I love!" Poet Medina doesn't stint on details, convincingly melding the warmth of family life with the stark realities of the streets. DeShawn answers the question "What is life like in the 'hood/ People walking everywhere/ broken bottles in the stairs/ …/ and dog mess smell in the air." But home is a safe place where the boy can tell his grandmother "anything/ she never tells my secrets," where his Uncle Richie consoles him when he has a bad dream, and where he lies "under the table/ listening to the grown-ups/ telling stories and the kitchen/ is warm and the windows wet/ with the smell of cornbread/ and baked chicken." Because Medina's portrait of the hard-working family is so positive, Christie's (The Palm of My Heart) bleak and sophisticated paintings seem misplaced; sharp angles and corners—doorways, beams of light, people's heads and bodies—dominate the compositions. In two standout spreads, words and artwork are completely in sync: when DeShawn's grandmother dies, and when his mother comforts him. Here a mood of sorrow and joy remembered create a perfect balance. Ultimately, however, the starkness of Christie's illustrations belie the life-affirming joy apparent in Medina's sweet-natured and imaginative hero. Ages 6-up. (May)