In Daddy's Arms I Am Tall
by Javaka Steptoe
This stunning homage to fathers offers a textured potpourri of voices and visuals. Love, pain, respect, adoration and just plain fun resonate in the works contributed by 12 poets, including Angela Johnson, Dakari Hru and Folami Abiade. A child's giggle-filled excitement reaches fever pitch in Hru's "Tickle Tickle" when he rough-houses with his dad: "me papa tickle me feet/ he call it `finger treat'/ me scream and run (but OH, WHAT FUN!)/ when papa tickle me feet." In Abiade's piece, a father wraps his child in reassurance : "in daddy's arms i am tall/ & close to the sun & warm/ in daddy's arms." Making his picture-book debut, Steptoe (son of the late Caldecott Honor artist John Steptoe) employs a wide variety of mixed-media techniques, offering a unique approach to each spread. The result is akin to strolling through an art gallery: wooden floor boards, burlap, buttons, pennies, seashells, tin and basketball leather are among the ingredients assembled here. Steptoe often renders central figures in cut- or torn-paper collage enhanced by chalk or pastel; one piece, inspired by Sanchez's "My Father's Eyes," measures 10 feet long and five feet high. Readers will find the poems universally accessible and the innovative artwork fresh and new at every turn. There is much to celebrate in this elegant volume, whether it's the strength and beauty of the poets' and artist's heritage or the loving bond between father and child that links all cultures. All ages.
Copyright 1997 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
School Library Journal
Gr 3 Up--This innovative, stunningly illustrated picture book celebrates the role of fathers in the African-American experience. The artist illustrates 13 poems with collages made from paper with pastel; applique; and a multitude of found objects, including fabric, coins, seashells, buttons, sand, seeds, and leaves. The artwork vibrates with emotion; even the simplest pieces, showing torn-paper figures on a solid background, capture the powerful bond between parent and child. The poems, written by Angela Johnson, Davida Adedjouma, Carole Boston Weatherford, and others, depict fathers working in the fields and in post offices, playing basketball, fishing, tickling, or hugging. Steptoe's own poem, "Seeds," is a tribute to his father: "You drew pictures of life/with your words." Libraries will want this title for Black History Month, National Poetry Month, Father's Day, or anytime a patron asks for a book about fathers. Teachers will find it inspiring in classroom units on poetry, or it can be used in conjunction with David Diaz's work to demonstrate collage techniques in an art class. Whatever its use, this lovely book deserves a place on library shelves.
Dawn Amsberry, Oakland Public Library, CA
Copyright 1998 Cahners Business Information, Inc.