Saturday, January 30, 2010

A Book and a Prayer: The Negro Speaks of Rivers

The Negro Speaks of Rivers, illustrated by E. B. Lewis
Langston Hughes
Disney - Jump at the Sun Books

I picked up this book for a couple of reasons, first because its the Coretta Scott King (Illustrator) Honor Book and the poem is by Langston Hughes. I confess I didn't know who E. B. Lewis is but after reading this book, I made it my business to learn more about the illustrator.

While I knew the poem and enjoyed it, I can tell you reading it in concert with Lewis' illustration is an entirely new experience. In fact, I'm going to say the experience was to borrow Lewis' description, spiritual. Lewis writes that he knew the poem from his boyhood but when he got the assignment he experienced the text in a whole new way. He said he recited the poem over and over until it became like a prayer and you feel that as you turn each page. There is a reverence, a peace, a kind of beauty that washes over you.

I shared my borrowed copy with several co-workers and they all loved it. One mom said she was going to purchase it this weekend. I wish had been exposed to more illustrated books as a child. As an adult I'm discovering the power and beauty in illustrated books that I didn't know existed. It's hard to describe what it means to me to experience art in this way. I do know that I want to read more illustrated books, and I hope that some parent with young children reads my reaction to this book and is motivated to seek out more books more often for their children. The Negro Speaks of Rivers is a prayer everyone should experience at least once.

I'm including this read in my POC Challenge count.


rhapsodyinbooks said...

I love the illustrations you showed. How beautiful.

susan said...

They are but the ones I wanted to show weren't available. They put you in a mediative state.

Do ask for this one. Insist your library buy it. It's an honor book that should be incentive enough.

Jessie Carty said...

wow! what a terrific looking book. i remember that poem well and so nice to see such a fitting tribute.

Marjorie said...

This looks such a beautiful book - thank you for highlighting it. And I'm so happy for you that you've just discovered illustrated books - they can be so enriching.

I wanted to include The Bat Boy and his Violin illustrated by E. B. Lewis in our music themed issue last summer but didn't manage to get hold of it - however, your description of the art work here has made me absolutely determined to seek it out!

Anonymous said...

I have to get this for my grandsons (although I will read it first - don't tell). I always tell everyone that I will be forever thankful to the English teacher who introduced my youngest to Langston Hughes, now I will introduce his children. Barbara Albin

bj neary said...

Susan, when I was an elementary librarian, our school had the honor and the privilege to host E.B. Lewis. He was an inspiration, his books and illustrations have such deep meaning, appeal to children but also to older readers. He captivated our K-4 student body and I was lucky enough to purchase one of his water colors of the Schuykill River in Philadelphia and it still hangs on my living room wall today. I hope to continue to see many more of Lewis' beautiful,significant water colors in the many books he writes and/or illustrates.

Ah Yuan // wingstodust said...

I had to click to enlarge the image - Lewis' watercolour is *fabulous*. I definitely need my own copy of this picture book.

Also, fyi, the middle column for this post actually links to the diversity roll call. ^^;;