cover image In Daddy's Arms I Am Tall: African Americans Celebrating Fathers

In Daddy's Arms I Am Tall: African Americans Celebrating Fathers

Javaka Steptoe. Lee & Low Books, $16.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-1-880000-31-1

This stunning homage to fathers offers a textured potpourri of voices and visuals. Love, pain, respect, adoration and just plain fun resonate in the works contributed by 12 poets, including Angela Johnson, Dakari Hru and Folami Abiade. A child's giggle-filled excitement reaches fever pitch in Hru's ""Tickle Tickle"" when he rough-houses with his dad: ""me papa tickle me feet/ he call it `finger treat'/ me scream and run (but OH, WHAT FUN!)/ when papa tickle me feet."" In Abiade's piece, a father wraps his child in reassurance : ""in daddy's arms i am tall/ & close to the sun & warm/ in daddy's arms."" Making his picture-book debut, Steptoe (son of the late Caldecott Honor artist John Steptoe) employs a wide variety of mixed-media techniques, offering a unique approach to each spread. The result is akin to strolling through an art gallery: wooden floor boards, burlap, buttons, pennies, seashells, tin and basketball leather are among the ingredients assembled here. Steptoe often renders central figures in cut- or torn-paper collage enhanced by chalk or pastel; one piece, inspired by Sanchez's ""My Father's Eyes,"" measures 10 feet long and five feet high. Readers will find the poems universally accessible and the innovative artwork fresh and new at every turn. There is much to celebrate in this elegant volume, whether it's the strength and beauty of the poets' and artist's heritage or the loving bond between father and child that links all cultures. All ages. (Nov.)