Another Review at MyShelf.Com

I, Too, Am America
By Langston Hughes
Illustrated by Bryan Collier

Simon & Schuster
May 2012 / ISBN 9781442420083
Picture book, poetry (ages 4 and up)

Reviewed by Bob Walch

"I, too, sing America. / I am the darker brother. / They send me to eat in the kitchen when company comes. / But I laugh, and eat well. / And grow strong." This is how this short, powerful poem by Langston Hughes begins. Bryan Collier uses this poem to evoke images of the Pullman porters of a bygone time and how they performed their jobs with courage and dignity. Although he writes of an era when social injustice and unfair treatment were still common occurrences, Hughes leaves the poem "open ended" and doesn't necessarily intend to reference any specific members of the African-American community of his time.

Bryan Collier uses the text of this poem to create a picture book, which brings together fleeting glimpses of southern cotton fields and big city tenements with a passenger train traveling through these dissimilar but related environments. Along the way the porters collect materials left by the passengers and disseminate them to members of the black communities the trains pass through.

Speaking of his artistic interpretation of Hughes' poem, Collier says, "This represents how far African-Americans have come in this country since the Pullman porters' time, and even since Hughes's time, and how bright our future can be."

A poignant poem and a series of large, full color illustrations make this a book that not only children but also adults will enjoy looking at and owning. If you are a Langston Hughes fan you'll definitely want to purchase this book.

Reviewed 2012