This lyrical tribute to Sugar Hill, the historic Harlem neighborhood of the 1920s and ‘30s, and its legendary inhabitants packs a lot of information with an economy of words and R. Gregory Christie’s colorful, stylized paintings.

It’s a powerful notion—that one neighborhood housed so many African-American luminaries in such wide-ranging fields (but primarily the arts), from Duke Ellington to Zora Neale Hurston to Thurgood Marshall. Author Carole Boston Weatherford pays tribute to each with a text possessing a distinctive rhythm, which begs to be read aloud. But she also pays tribute to the ordinary (that is, non-celebrity) neighborhood dwellers, those who encouraged the arts and culture in the lives of their children: “Where grown-ups lift the young ones high and give them wings to touch the sky.”

The book’s font plays with color and type to accentuate the author’s rhythms, and Christie’s art pulses with energy and reverence for the subject matter. The book closes with an informative Author’s Note about Sugar Hill and the Harlem Renaissance and a list of Who’s Who from the book.

It’s a joyous celebration of community and a poetic tribute to one of this country’s most exciting cultural movements.

 

Julie Danielson features authors and illustrators at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, a children's literature blog primarily focused on illustration and picture books.

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