Reviews for My People


Booklist Reviews 2009 February #1
Some 86 years after its original publication, Langston Hughes poem "My People" finds celebratory interpretation in Charles R. Smith Jr. s elegant sepia photography. Echoing the graceful simplicity of Hughes verses, Smith s pictures capture African American faces of every size, shape, age, and hue, their countenances shining out from fields of glossy black. The expressions are as varied and captivating as the subjects, from crying babies to radiant children and adults. The pages outnumber the words, 40 to 33, allowing the text, printed in gold, to sweep across the darkness with the titular refrain. In an endnote, Smith shares the questions he asked himself as he began his photographic interpretation, noting Hughes intent "to celebrate the pride he had for his black brothers and sisters." In the aspects that he has captured, and their artful arrangement across the page, he does just that. Copyright 2009 Booklist Reviews.

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Kirkus Reviews 2008 December #1
Hughes first published "My People" in 1923. Bold photographs that joyfully celebrate the diversity of African-American culture bring this simple text to life once again. Faces of various skin tones and ages, and both genders, explode from the black background of each page, all reproduced in faintly antiqued sepia tones that both befit the Jazz Age origins of the poem and give glorious depth to the faces depicted. The image that illustrates "The stars are beautiful" is of hair ornaments in deep, rich, black hair; light-bathed faces look up into an implied "sun." Smith's eye for detail and his extraordinary photographs eloquently express the pride and love the poet felt for his people, capturing equally the curiosity and excitement of youth and the experience and wisdom of elders. The simple yet brilliant photographs fully occupy the page; filmstrip-like thumbnails at the edges provide a visual rhythm. All together, they are the perfect accompaniment to the classic poem and create a complex work of art that any age can relish. (photographer's note) (Picture book. 2-10) Copyright Kirkus 2008 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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Library Media Connection Reviews 2009 May/June
Beautiful b&w photographs highlight the text of Langston Hughes? poem. It is almost breathtaking when one opens to the first page and the peaceful face of a black man is featured with two words, ?the night.? Hughes? simple poem, which compares the night, sun, and stars to the faces, souls, and eyes of his people, is the foundation of the book. However, the photographs of different faces illuminate the poem. The book is a tribute to the poet and to the differences in appearance that make our species so amazing. The celebration of poetry and photography in the book create a piece of art that can be appreciated for its beauty alone and also for its educational value as a study in metaphor and rhythm. The possibilities for reading, understanding, and enjoying are endless with this book. Recommended. Emily Rozmus, K-12 Library Media Specialist, Mechanicsburg (Ohio) Exempted Village Schools ¬ 2009 Linworth Publishing, Inc.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2008 November #3

"At just thirty-three words total, [this] poem is a study in simplicity," writes Smith (Rimshots; If); in its visual simplicity, his picture-book presentation is a tour de force. Introducing the poem two or three words at a time, Smith pairs each phrase with a portrait of one or more African-Americans; printed in sepia, the faces of his subjects materialize on black pages. "The night," reads the opening spread, across from an image of a man's face, his eyes shut; "is beautiful," continues the next spread, showing the same face, now with eyes open and a wide smile. The text, sized big to balance the portraits, shows up in hues that range from white to tan to brown-black, reflecting Smith's reading that "the words celebrate black people of differing shades and ages." An inventive design adds a short, shadowed row or column of small portraits to the edge of many spreads; these quietly reinforce the concept of "my people." Whether of babies, children or adults, Smith's faces emerge into the light, displaying the best that humanity has to offer--intelligence, wisdom, curiosity, love and joy. Ages 4-8. (Jan.)

[Page 58]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

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School Library Journal Reviews 2009 February

K Up--Smith's knack for pairing poetry and photography is well documented in books such as Hoop Queens (Candlewick, 2003) and Rudyard Kipling's If (S & S, 2006). Here, his artful images engage in a lyrical and lively dance with Langston Hughes's brief ode to black beauty. Dramatic sepia portraits of African Americans--ranging from a cherubic, chubby-cheeked toddler to a graying elder whose face is etched with lines-are bathed in shadows, which melt into black backgrounds. The 33 words are printed in an elegant font in varying sizes as emphasis dictates. In order to maximize the effect of the page turn and allow time for meaning to be absorbed, the short phrases and their respective visual narratives often spill over more than a spread. The conclusion offers a montage of faces created with varying exposures, a decision that provides a light-filled aura and the irregularities that suggest historical prints. A note from Smith describes his approach to the 1923 poem. This celebration of the particular and universal will draw a wide audience: storytime participants; students of poetry, photography, and cultural studies; seniors; families. A timely and timeless offering.--Wendy Lukehart, Washington DC Public Library

[Page 92]. Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

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