December 12, 2017

The Advocate's Toolbox

Pick of the Day: My Hands Sing the Blues: Romare Bearden’s Childhood Journey (CD)

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Book cover: Romare Bearden paintingMy Hands Sing the Blues: Romare Bearden’s Childhood Journey. By Jeanne Walker Harvey. cassette or CD. 15 min. Recorded Books. 2012. cassette: ISBN 978-1-4640-0209-0, CD: ISBN 978-1-4640-0206-9. $15.75; hardcover book, ISBN 978-0-7614-5810-4: $17.99.
K-Gr 3–In a first-person narrative that incorporates some of artist Romare Bearden’s phrases and ideas, and using his famous painting “Watching the Good Trains Go By” as her inspiration, Jeanne Walker Harvey gives voice to the history and experiences that inspired his famous collages. Born in North Carolina, Bearden and his family moved to Harlem in 1914 to escape discriminatory Jim Crow Laws and attitudes. In his collages, which he called paintings and “visual jazz,” he analyzed the social and political issues of his time and also related his personal story as well as the daily life of African Americans in both the North and South. Kevin R. Free reads Harvey’s fictionalized account (Marshall Cavendish, 2011) of the artist’s life with a cadence that turns the rhyming lines into a blues song, its rhythm rising and falling and bouncing along, sometimes singing the train whistles and engines like a jazz tune. The audio version perfectly accompanies Elizabeth Zunon’s Bearden-like collage illustrations and text that changes size and color for emphasis. The author’s note, which details the life and describes the work of Bearden, is included, but source notes from the book are not. While this fictionalized biography provides an excellent introduction to the Great Migration North and the Harlem Renaissance, it is also a work of art in words and pictures.–MaryAnn Karre, Horace Mann and Thomas Jefferson Elementary Schools, Binghamton, NY

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