Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Art inventively imitates art in this engaging volume. Newcomer Hartfield's fictional tale draws upon the work of collage artist Bearden who, as a child, moved from his native North Carolina to Harlem. Lagarrigue's (My Man Blue) softly focused acrylic paintings introduce collage elements as they effectively evoke the story's period setting, which shifts from the rural South to Manhattan. While his mother awaits the birth of twins, narrator James travels by train to visit his Aunt Nanette and Uncle Romie, who is working hard to finish paintings for his upcoming art show. The man remains behind the closed doors of his studio as his wife shows their nephew the sights of the city. Lagarrigue retains his own style while incorporating the turquoise, brick red, fuschia and other hues so prominent in Bearden's work; the compositions of his cityscapes in particular recall the giant collage The Block (1971). James becomes enamored of bustling Harlem, where he plays stickball and partakes in a rooftop barbecue. On his birthday, the lad wanders into his uncle's studio and is thrilled to discover that Bearden's art captures his favorite spot: "Looking at Uncle Romie's paintings, I could feel Harlem-its beat and bounce." In the satisfying ending, James, back at home with his new twin siblings, feels inspired to create his own collage as a birthday gift for his uncle. Concluding tips on making collages may well encourage readers to do the same. Ages 5-up. (Dec.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Kirkus Book Review
This tribute to collage artist Romare Bearden is movingly executed in a fictionalized story of young James, who visits his aunt and uncle in New York while his parents adjust to the arrival of twins. James is a little nervous; Uncle Romie and Aunt Nanette don't have any kids, and a picture of Uncle Romie makes him look a little scary. Who will bake him a lemon cake and take him to the baseball game on his birthday? Aunt Nanette turns out to be warmhearted and welcoming, but Uncle Romie, busy with his art, seems a little distant. When the big day arrives, Uncle Romie turns out to be more fun that James anticipated. When James enters the art studio for the first time, he recognizes Harlem in Romie's collage paintings that he'd previously dismissed as "kinda easy" to make, and he sees one that reminds him of North Carolina, where Uncle Romie also grew up. Uncle and nephew bond a little over shared memories of home, and then Uncle Romie surprises James with tickets to the ballgame. Aunt Nanette is back in time for cake, and by the time James goes home, his horizons have expanded not only in terms of his family, but in his appreciation for other places and for the power of art. So many things at home now remind him of Uncle Romie that he makes a collage birthday card for him featuring train schedules, tiger lilies, a subway token and subway map, and his own painting. Lagarrigue's (Freedom Summer, 2001, etc.) collage artwork, like Bearden's, possesses a real feel for the Harlem setting without actually being realistic. He conveys the essence of the place through bits of paper, darkly colored paint, and impressionistically blurry portrayals of people and scenes. A guide at the back to help young artists create their own collages enhances this fitting introduction to an American artist. (Picture book. 5-8)
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