March 23, 2017

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Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton | SLJ Review

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PoetTate, Don. Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton. illus. by Don Tate. 36p. bibliog. Peachtree. Sept. 2015. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781561458257. LC 2015002407.

Gr 2-5–This picture book biography of poet George Moses Horton (1798–1884), a slave and the first African American poet to be published in the South, recounts his fascinating long life and masterly way with words. Tate’s distinctive illustrations feature gently curving horizons, bucolic washes of color, and figures with oversize heads and stylized, expressive faces. The illustrations and the accessible, lyrical text spare readers from the full force of slavery’s brutality: enslaved people are shown as ragged but resilient, Horton’s forced labor in the fields is genteelly called “disagreeable,” and the scene of a slave revolt is bloodless. Tate integrates historical context into the narrative, for instance, describing how prominent abolitionists tried to help Horton buy his freedom or how his business writing love poems for hire folded because his customers enlisted in the Confederate army. Nevertheless, the focus remains on Horton and his emotional journey: triumph at his first publication; heartbreak when he was sold from his family; joy and contentment in his old age when he was, at last, free. Several of Horton’s verses appear throughout the book, and back matter includes an extensive author’s note and source list. VERDICT A lovely introduction to an inspirational American poet.–Sarah Stone, San Francisco Public Library

This review was published in School Library Journal‘s July 2015 issue.

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