Thank you to Janice Scully of Salt City Verse for hosting this week.
As we feature voices from the fringe for our quarterly reading theme, I thought it would be great to highlight celebratory voices that resound with pride and joy, and this picturebook in verse is a perfect example of that.
Hey Black Child (Amazon | Book Depository)
Poem by: Useni Eugene Perkins Illustrated by Bryan Collier
Published by Little Brown Books for Young Readers (2017)
ISBN: 0316360309 (ISBN13: 9780316360302). Borrowed from NLB Overdrive. Book photos taken by me.
This poem written by Useni Eugene Perkins in 1975 had been attributed to countless famous poets including Maya Angelou and Countee Cullen. This picture book shares the roots of this verse that bear fierce pride towards having a Black identity, and the many challenges and opportunities being a Black child can offer in this world.
There is a can-do spirit that is brimming with joy and possibilities, with the deceptively-simple verse sounding almost like a chant, a prayer, a mantra of all the things Black children can do and be.
Collier’s images also powerfully make use of collage art, juxtaposing actual photographs with his colourful art that seem to jump out of the pages.
While overwhelmingly positive, there is also an acknowledgment of how the Black child’s strength and resolve had been forged by a history of pain, oppression, and disenfranchisement. The visual art captures this in such a subtle but impactful manner.
This is a gorgeous picturebook-poetry to own and one that should proudly take its space in anyone’s bookshelf.
#ReadIntl2020 Update: Both author and illustrator are POC.