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Caldecott Medalist Diaz (Before You Came) teams up with poet and writer Alexander (American Sublime) to create a stunning visual representation of Alexander's poem, which was commissioned for President Obama's inauguration. Two characters-a mother in long blue dress and her son in purple-wend through unfolding landscapes that offer abstract representations of ancestors, manual laborers, music makers, farm workers, railroad builders, and more, against full-bleed backdrops of bright orange and soft greens and blues. Paintings depict children and adults in geometric, masklike profile; pointed facial features contrast with full limbs in the foreground, while background patterns suggesting collage and paper-cuttings portray snowflakes, cornstalks, and oval-shaped trees. Reading as though narrated by mother to son, Alexander's verse speaks of oppression, struggle, courage, and hope. One illustration shows the pair walking through tree brambles toward a distant, glowing city: "We need to find a place where we are safe./ We walk into that which we cannot yet see." The imagery's angularity becomes increasingly circular and rounded, culminating in a fiery sun surrounding by uplifted, dancing people. A moving pictorial elegy. Ages 6-10. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
Delivered during Barack Obama's historic inauguration, Alexander's commissioned poem marked one of the most momentous occasions in contemporary American history. This commemorative picture book couples the prose-like 43-line poem with Diaz's unmistakable, incandescent computer-generated artwork. Echoing works by Langston Hughes and Walt Whitman, the accessible verse praises not the accomplishments of a single individual but the many ways everyday Americans have shaped our country and continue to do so inspirational sentiments well suited to young readers. The text makes a brief, albeit stirring, reference to the inauguration itself (In today's sharp sparkle, this winter air, / any thing can be made, any sentence begun), while the artwork eschews images of the event or Obama, featuring instead complex, multilayered double-page compositions of a mother and her young son. There is no informational text in the book, so those curious about the poet, the crafting and presentation of the poem, and the inauguration will need to look elsewhere.--McKulski, Kristen Copyright 2010 Booklist
School Library Journal
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Gr 3-5-Much has been written, both good and bad, about the poem Alexander wrote for the inauguration of President Barack Obama, but since this is a book designed for children, it is worth another look. Based on the form of African praise songs, the poem is made up of short descriptive sentences that are at once simple and evocative. From an acknowledgment of our shared American experience ("A woman and her son wait for the bus./A farmer considers the changing sky./A teacher says, Take out your pencil. Begin"), to a remembrance of the social struggle that led up to the election ("Say it plain: that many have died for this day"), this is a poem whose accessibility is its strength. Ending with a recognition of the hope felt by much of the nation ("On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,/praise song for walking forward in that light"), this book gives readers the opportunity to revisit the importance of the day when Barack Obama became our 44th president. The glowing, computer-generated art utilizes Diaz's signature cut-paper look. Central to these illustrations are a mother and son who travel through the text as though memorializing the president and his own mother. With the 2012 presidential election coming up, it is good to look back and recall the historical significance of the 2008 vote that resulted in the election of our first African American president. This is a book that can and should make that happen.-Teri Markson, Los Angeles Public Library (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.