A poet's inspiration
Set in the 1920s, before the civil rights movement had even begun, Langston's Train Ride imagines the poet Langston Hughes as a young man in Harlem, soon after his first book of poems was published.
"Look out, Harlem," declares Langston. "Yes, I am a poet! I know it now, but there was a time when I wasn't so sure."
As Langston strides through the streets of Harlem to meet friends and celebrate his success, the reader is pulled into his memories of visiting his father in Mexico in 1920. As he rides the train, the young man watches passing fields and rivers, and the rivers begin to inspire a poem, which he scribbles onto the back of an envelope. Inspired by the 1921 Hughes poem, "The Negro Speaks of Rivers," Langston's Train Ride is a visual feast. Leonard Jenkins has created vibrant, dynamic paintings that make Robert Burleigh's imaginative tribute come alive. An afterword provides more information about the poet's life and the incident that inspired the story.
While these and other new black history titles are aimed primarily at children, the best kids' books appeal to readers of all ages. So whether you have a child in your life or not, head into your local bookstore or the children's section of your community library during Black History Month to see what's on display. There's sure to be something there will enrich your own appreciation and understanding of our past.
Deborah Hopkinson's newest book is Billy and the Rebel, a story for young readers inspired by a true incident at the Battle of Gettysburg.