Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Book-A-Day 25: My People

My People
Written by: Langston Hughes
Photographs by: Charles R. Smith Jr.  

I adore this Coretta Scott King Award winning book! Langston Hughes is one of my favorite poets and his poems carry such power in their simplicity.  Combining the poetic words of Langston Hughes with perfectly captured photographs taken by Charles R. Smith Jr. create a powerful book to share with students. While the poem itself is only thirty-three words in length it serves as an anthem to celebrate african-americans.  Originally written by Langston Hughes to lift-up and celebrate African-Americans during the 1920's when they were not acknowledged much in society.   Charles R Smith Jr. has captured the many faces of African-Americans so well as he worked to pair photographs with words from the poem.  He says in a note at the end of the book, "I wanted to show skin color as bright as the sun and as dark as the night; I wanted to show the newness of a newborn smile and the wisdom of wrinkled skin.  But, more than anything, I simply wanted to show that like any other group of people, black people come in all shapes, sizes, shades, and ages, and that each of us is unique."

Here are the words to Langston Hughes' poem that filled the pages of this book. 

The night is beautiful,
So the faces of my people.

The stars are beautiful,
So the eyes of my people.

Beautiful, also, is the sun.
Beautiful, also, are the souls of my people. 

This would be a perfect book to inspire kids to create their own artistic interpretation of a poem.  Students could choose a poem and then use iPads to capture images that could illustrate the poem when broken apart.  What do they see in their mind's eye when they read their chosen poem?  How can they convey that through photographic images? 

Langston Hughes was a famous African American poet whose work is still celebrated to this day.  To learn more about him and his writing click here.  Charles R. Smith Jr. is an author and illustrator for children's books and we have many of his titles in our school library.  You can learn more about him here.  

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