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Nathaniel Talking

by Jan Spivey Gilchrist


Publishers Weekly :

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The rhythm of Greenfield's text is infectious from a very early line: ``It's Nathaniel talking / and Nathaniel's me/ I'm talking about / My philosophy/ About the things I do / And the people I see / All told in the words / Of Nathaniel B. Free / That's me.' Her sentiments are equally affecting, but in a more sobering way; Nathaniel wonders when he'll ever be old enough not to have to answer a question ``I don't know,' and he remembers his mother, who has died: ``Mama was funny / was full of jokes / was pretty / dark brown-skinned / laughter.' His experiences are warmly universal, as are Gilchrist's depictions of his joyful and sorrowful moments, and both poetry, picture and mood come together in one wistful moment when Nathaniel says, ``I know life ain't no piece of pie . . . I know I got to try.' Ages 5-11.

Copyright 1989 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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School Library Journal :

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Gr 2-5-- ``It's Nathaniel talking/ and Nathaniel's me/ I'm talking about/ My philosophy' begins a stellar collection of 18 first-person poems. Like Greenfield's Honey, I Love (Crowell, 1978), the collection as a whole characterizes an individual black child through the child's lyric impressions of self and the surrounding world. Here, the child is a little older, his world a little wider. Nathaniel is a confident nine-year-old, making observations about his life, sifting through bittersweet memories of his past, and dreaming of his future. Gilchrist's black-and-white illustrations fill the pages but are so skillfully composed that they do not crowd or overshadow the poems themselves. Nathaniel is portrayed realistically in achromatic pencil drawings with sharp lines and fine detail. By contrast, his thoughts, dreams, and memories are softer, hazier, and more abstract, frequently separated from him by cloudlike shapes or sweeping lines. While all the poems remain true to a nine-year-old's perspective, the mature poet's playfulness with words and rhythms gives resonance, depth, and unity to the collection as a whole. For example, each generation of Nathaniel's extended family is distinguished by a poetic tribute to a musical form associated with their era, from Nathaniel's Rap (``I can rap/ I can rap/ I can rap rap rap/ Till your earflaps flap'), to My Daddy , a poem written according to the lyric and rhythmic formula of the 12-bar blues, to Grandma's Bones in which words and rhythms imitate the sound of a folk instrument which has its origins in Africa. Overall, Nathaniel Talking will strike a chord of recognition in children everywhere, and is sure to set feet tapping and earflaps flapping. --Kathleen T. Horning, Madison Public Library, WI

Copyright 1989 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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