|Blacker the berry|
Author: Thomas, Joyce Carol
A collection of poems, including "Golden Goodness," "Cranberry Red," and "Biscuit Brown," celebrating individuality and Afro-American identity.
|Reading Counts Information:|
Interest Level: 3-5
Reading Level: 3.60
Points: 1.0 Quiz: 49210
Coretta Scott King Author Honor, 2009
Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award, 2009
Common Core Standards
Grade K → Reading → RL Literature → K.RL Key Ideas & Details
Grade K → Reading → RL Literature → K.RL Craft & Structure
Grade K → Reading → RL Literature → K.RL Range of Reading & Level of Text Complexity
Grade K → Reading → RL Literature → K.RL Integration of Knowledge & Ideas
Grade 1 → Reading → RL Reading Literature → 1.RL Range of Reading & Level of Text Complexity
Grade 1 → Reading → RL Reading Literature → Texts Illustrating the Complexity, Quality, & Rang
Grade 2 → Reading → RL Reading Literature → 2.RL Key Ideas & Details
Grade 2 → Reading → RL Reading Literature → 2.RL Craft & Structure
Grade 3 → Reading → RL Literature → 3.RL Key Ideas & Details
Grade 3 → Reading → RL Literature → Texts Illustrating the Complexity, Quality, & Rang
Kirkus Reviews (+) (06/15/08)
School Library Journal (00/08/08)
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (A) (07/08)
The Hornbook (09/08)
Full Text Reviews:
Bulletin for the Center... - 07/01/2008 Well-known poet Thomas offers a dozen free-verse poems in the voices of African-American children, each describing and exulting in their own individual and beautiful skin color. The author takes the berry metaphor of the title and runs it through the poems, with one boy referring to himself as “raspberry-black (“I am African-Native-American”), a girl realizing her arms are “as bronze and golden” as the huckleberry bush, and another “as light as snowberries in fall,” while other kids are “biscuit brown” and “midnight and berries” dark. The poems are bolsteringly inclusive, gaining particular energy when they touch on family exchanges or stories (Grandma’s anecdote makes “Coffee Will Make You Black” a standout entry). Often, though, the poems are merely prettily descriptive and their eloquence flattened by the hard-pushed positivity; the berry metaphor also becomes somewhat strained with repetition. The berries can become a tad intrusive in the art as well, but Cooper’s misty pastels otherwise offer some evocative portraiture of bright-eyed youngsters, with hearty realism in gap-toothed smiles and individual faces that helps balance out the idealism of the settings. This is a topic not often overtly treated in literature for young people, and this collection could make a partner to other books about African-American acceptance such as Sandra Pinkney’s Shades of Black (BCCB 1/01) or hooks’ Happy to Be Nappy (BCCB 1/00). DS - Copyright 2008 The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.
School Library Journal - 08/01/2008 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 Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information. - Copyright 2008 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.
Booklist - 05/15/2008 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.