I, Too, Am America

by written by Langston Hughes and illustrated by Bryan Collier

Book list A celebration of Pullman porters is the focus of this new picture-book edition of Langston Hughes' classic poem. The collage spreads, blending oil paintings and cut paper, begin with an image of a speeding train before moving on to large portraits of African American porters serving white passengers aboard a luxury train. When the passengers leave, the porters gather left-behind items newspapers, blues and jazz albums and toss them from the train. Carried by the wind, the words and music fall into the hands of African Americans across the country. The final, contemporary pages show young black people celebrating their place in America and dreaming of a bright future. Collier's long final note explains his interpretation of the poem, and with adult help, kids can look closely at what the pictures show about the porters then and now as well as Collier's visual themes, including the recurring use of stars and stripes, which culminate in a beautiful, final close-up of a boy with his mother staring through a train window today at the starry city sky.--Rochman, Hazel Copyright 2010 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright American Library Association. Used with permission.

School Library Journal K-Gr 5-Hughes's poem of burgeoning pride in one's African American identity, written at the height of the Harlem Renaissance in 1925, is interpreted anew in this striking picture book. Collier has visualized the message of the sparely written poem, barely 60 words in length, through the lens of a Pullman porter. "I, too, sing America" proclaims the opening spread that depicts a passenger rail car whizzing by; then, "I am the darker brother" shows an African American young man in the porter's uniform gazing squarely at readers through a faint, translucent overlay of the American flag, a recurring motif. As the porter cleans up the club car and examines the detritus-newspapers, magazines, blues, and jazz albums left by the train's well-heeled passengers-he impulsively flings it all from the caboose, scattering this knowledge to those who will willingly learn from it. Wafting through time and space, these items fall into the hands of a young female field worker in the long-ago South as well as residents in a contemporary northern urban landscape. The poem's powerful conclusion-"I, too, am America"-depicts a young boy on the subway with his mother, peering out the window through a readily visible flag toward his unknown but hopeful future. Collier's signature mixed-media collages create bold, textured images that give tangible expression to the poet's potent words. A memorable and multilayered volume for all libraries.-Kathleen Finn, St. Francis Xavier School, Winooski, VT (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publishers Weekly Caldecott Honor artist Collier (Dave the Potter) uses Hughes's well-known poem as text for a visual history of Pullman railway porters, one of the first jobs that offered African-American men steady pay, dignity, and a ladder into the middle class. Hughes's lines-"They send me to eat in the kitchen/ When company comes,/ But I laugh,/ And eat well,/ And grow strong"-fit beautifully with the story of the porters, giving the poem new meaning and impact. Collier's portraits of the porters at work alternate with bold, sweeping spreads of cotton fields, onto which a porter scatters discarded books and magazines, planting knowledge along the railway lines. The story travels from South to North and from old to new, ending in Harlem, where a contemporary African-American mother rides in a subway car, her son gazing out the window. In the next spread, he's seen in startling closeup, parting and peering between the stripes of an all-but-invisible American flag. "I, too, am America," he says. It's a powerful metaphor for looking at African-American history-and the issue of race in America-from the inside out. Ages 4-8. Agent: Marcia Wernick, Wernick and Pratt Agency. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

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