Reviews for Blacker the Berry

Booklist Reviews 2008 May #2
Black comes in all shades from dark to light, and each is rich and beautiful in this collection of simple, joyful poems and glowing portraits that show African American diversity and connections. In the title poem, a smiling girl says, "Because I am dark, the moon and stars shine brighter." Other pages have fun with terms, such as skin deep and night shade. A grandma turns "Coffee will make you black"  from a warning into something great. A boy is proud to be raspberry black as he reads his great-great-grandmother's journal about her love for her Seminole Indian husband. A girl says she is "cranberry red" from her father's Irish ancestry. In the final, joyful double-page spread, the kids celebrate their individual identities and laugh together. Many families will want to talk about this and their own family roots: "We count who we are / And add to all who came before us." Copyright 2008 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2009 Spring
Thomas's theme in the book's twelve poems is the varying skin tones of African American children, shown in Cooper's characteristic dark-grained, luminous illustrations. This collection will encourage African American children to embrace the skin they're in and, by extension, invite children of all races to enjoy whatever their heritage has made them. Copyright 2008 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2008 #5
Thomas introduces her collection of twelve poems with this line, set off by itself on a double-page spread: "Colors, without black, couldn't sparkle quite so bright." The accompanying picture, executed in Cooper's characteristic dark-grained, luminous style, shows a brown-skinned child holding up a handful of sparkling berries in shades from black to deep purple to pink. Thomas's theme here is the varying skin colors of African American children. In "Raspberry Black" a little boy is shown reading an ancestor's journal that tells "How she loved her Seminole Indian husband / How her children were African-Native-American / The color of black dipped in red." Not all of the poems directly address ethnicity or heritage in their celebration of blackness, as in "Night Shade" ("I feel as purple / As the night shade / Of an eggplant") or "Biscuit Brown" ("I am biscuit brown / Brown as a biscuit / All warm and waiting / for berries / that I carry / to the kitchen and can"). This collection will encourage African American children to embrace the skin they're in and, by extension, invite children of all races to enjoy whatever their heritage has made them. Copyright 2008 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2008 June #2
"What shade is human?" Thomas's evocative, colorful poetry seeks to answer that question with this celebration of the diversity of African-American children across the spectrum. From "Raspberry Black" to "Golden Goodness," Cooper's soft and realistic illustrations almost leap from the page, incorporating natural images from the text in their depiction of a gallery of beautiful, self-confident children. Difficult intraracial social issues related to skin color are handled with truth and respect. For instance, in the poem "Snowberries," a fair-skinned child speaks back to those who would question her identity: "The words cut deep down / Beyond the bone / Beneath my snowy skin / Deep down where no one can see / I bleed the ‘one drop of blood' / That makes Black me." On the page opposite, an auburn-haired girl smiles at the reader, eyes twinkling. An essential picture book that helps young children understand and appreciate differences in skin color. As the epigraph states so truthfully, "Colors, without black, / couldn't sparkle quite so bright." (Picture book/poetry. 5-10) Copyright Kirkus 2008 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

School Library Journal Reviews 2008 August

Gr 1-4-- The varieties of African-American ethnic heritage are often rendered invisible by the rigid construction of racial identity that insists on polarities. This collection of 12 poems makes the complexities of a layered heritage visible and the many skin shades celebrated. Read-aloud-sized spreads offer luminous artwork that complements the verses in which children speak of their various hues: "I am midnight and berries…" a child says in the title poem. In another selection, a boy recalls his Seminole grandmother who has given him the color of "red raspberries stirred into blackberries." In "Cranberry Red," a child asserts that "it's my Irish ancestors/Who reddened the Africa in my face," understanding that "When we measure who we are/We don't leave anybody out." The large illustrations match the lyrical poetry's emotional range. Cooper's method includes "pulling" the drawing out from a background of oil paint and glazes. With his subtractive method, he captures the joy of these children--the sparkle of an eye, the width of a grin, the lovely depths of their skin, and the light that radiates from within. This book complements titles that explore identity, such as Katie Kissinger's All the Colors We Are (Redleaf, 1994).--Teresa Pfeifer, Alfred Zanetti Montessori Magnet School, Springfield, MA

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