Thursday, April 19, 2018

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Boy (Tony Medina)

Author: Tony Medina

Illustrator:  Various

Target Ages:  6-11

Genre:   Poetry Collection

Publisher Summary: 
Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Boy by Tony Medina offers a fresh perspective of young men of color by depicting thirteen views of everyday life: young boys dressed in their Sunday best, running to catch a bus, and growing up to be teachers, and much more. Each of Tony Medina’s tanka is matched with a different artist—including recent Caldecott and Coretta Scott King Award recipients—to create a dynamic, electrifying engagement of poetry and art that’s sure to excite readers of all ages.

Sample Poems:
“Anacostia Angel”
Fly bow tie like wings
Brown eyes of a brown angel
His kool-aid smile sings
Mama’s little butterfly
Daddy’s dimple grin so wide

“Lazy Hazy Daze”
Summertime on stoop
Forehead sweat like ice cream tears
Hiding from the sun
Wishing for the rain to come
Cool us like johnny pump spray

“Brothers Gonna Work It Out”
We righteous Black men
Patrol the soul of this ‘hood
Raise young bloods proper
To be the kings that they are
Crowned glory of our future

The memorable introductory poem Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Boy sets the tone by reflecting on the multifaceted nature of Black boys, from their love of basketball and book to their wonder and possibility.  There are so many beautiful lines like “Black boys are made of flesh—not clay” and “Black boys have minds that thrive with ideas like bees around a hive.”  The poem ends with “We celebrate their preciousness and creativity/We cherish their lives.” 

This celebration of Black boys’ existence reveals their dreams and concerns.  Beginning in early childhood and ending in adulthood, the poems and illustrations are snapshots of life.  The poems reflect the multi-faceted nature of Black boys of all ages—their beauty, their power, and their worth.

From the soft, realistic painting of Floyd Cooper to the bright collages of Ekua Holmes to the expressionism work of Shawn K. Alexander, the collection also celebrates diversity among African American artists. Each artist brings Medina’s poetry to life in a creative and fascinating way. 

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Boy is an empowering book that builds a love for poetry while it teaches young Black boys and men to appreciate their uniqueness.


  1. Thank you for sharing this. I love the alliteration in the poems and I like that it makes us see--go beyond the stereotype what their lives are like.

  2. So important to overcome this fear that ruins lives. Black men are beautiful, deep, sensitive and nurturing.

  3. Thanks for sharing this new and wonderful book of poetry. The poems illustrated by different artists sound and look beautiful!

  4. Did not know about this book. Sounds fantastic. Thanks for featuring it this week; enjoyed the sample poems.

  5. Thank you for sharing this book. The snapshots of the art and poetry you share from it are breathtaking!

  6. Thank you for sharing this. I will definitely be checking this out. It looks beautiful and sounds memorable.

  7. I had not heard of this collection. I've added it to my library request list. Thank you for sharing.

  8. I wonder if that is a reference to Anacostia in D.C.?
    What cool illustrations to go with the different ways of looking!

    1. It is. The poems were inspired by the author's experience there.

  9. Must. Have.

    Thanks for the spotlight!!

  10. This book looks and sounds amazing! I appreciate the celebration of culture and diversity within. Thank you for introducing it to us!

  11. Wow, those illustrations are gorgeous!

  12. A perfect book review for today. I love the concept for the book and the poems you've shared and the beautiful illustrations. Do you think this would sit well on a middle school shelf? Or, should I make sure my biggest "feeder" elementary school should get a copy? Thank you.

  13. Thank you for sharing this book with us. Such a great idea to celebrate snapshots of everyday life. I love the imagery of “Lazy Hazy Daze."

  14. Looks like a very rich collection of poems and art, thanks for sharing it with us!

  15. Tony's work for kids is so wonderful. I've been waiting for this book. What a great concept, to partner a variety of illustrators with the poems.


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