Thursday, April 2, 2020

Poetry Friday: The Blacker the Berry



Title:  The Blacker the Berry 

Author:  Joyce Carol Thomas 

Illustrator: Floyd Cooper 

Target Ages:  3 and up 

Awards: Coretta Scott King Award for Illustrators, Coretta Scott King Award for Authors (nominated), ALA Notable Children’s Book 

Genre:  Poetry Picture Book 

Publisher Summary: 
Black is dazzling and distinctive, like toasted wheat berry bread; snowberries in the fall; rich, red cranberries; and the bronzed last leaves of summer. In this lyrical and luminous collection, Coretta Scott King honorees Joyce Carol Thomas and Floyd Cooper celebrate these many shades of black beautifully. 

Poem Samples: 
“What Shade Is Human?"
 At breakfast

I pour milk all over my bowl of berries

And Grandpa says,

“It's the milk of kindness

that makes us human.”

“Yes, Papa," I answer,

and he continues:

"White milk

Chocolate milk

Sweet milk

Mother’s milk.”

I nod between bites of berries

because

My mother long ago

When she nursed me my first milk

Said, “You are beautiful,”

And I heard her.




“The Blacker the Berry"
 “The blacker the berry

the sweeter the juice.”

I am midnight and berries

I call the silver stars at dusk

By moonrise they appear

And we turn berries into nectar

Because I am dark the moon and stars

shine brighter

Because berries are dark the juice is sweeter

Day couldn’t dawn without the night

Colors, without black, couldn’t sparkle

quite as bright

“The blacker the berry

the sweeter the juice”

I am midnight and berries 

Evaluation:  
The poems have a couple significant connections.  

First, the berry metaphor is used throughout in creative and poignant ways.   For instance, one speaker is her “great-grandma’s raspberry color,” her “grandma’s blackberry cheeks,” and her “mama’s mulberry mouth.”  Another child refers to himself as “raspberry black” because he is part Native Indian and part African American.  Each use of color—shades of dark—reflects the child’s heritage and instills confidence.

Second, the poems reflect the diversity within the African-American community.  Colors range from deep black like coffee berries to “light as snowberries in fall.”  Many of the children are mixed race.  Each child recognizes his or her uniqueness and beauty.   

Finally,  the poems instill pride in children (and adults) of color.  In “Snowberries,” the child  speaker wants to be “black as midnight” so she isn’t made fun of for her “snowy skin.”  She comes to realized that if she bleeds “the one drop of blood” she is just as “Black” as a dark skinned person.  Another child declares she “feels absolutely fabulous to be this brown.”  In the final poem, it says: “Each color is rich in its own right/We come in all shades.”

Floyd Cooper’s illustrations enrich the diversity, beauty, and pride that exude from each poem.  Each two-page spread shows the sparkle, radiance, and musing of the children as they contemplate their heritage and individuality.  

The Blacker the Berry is a stunning collection of poems and art.  

This post is part of the Poetry Friday link up hosted by My Juicy Little Universe.

 

9 comments:

  1. I've read this wonderful book. Thanks for the reminder of how gorgeous the poetry is and the lovely use of "berry" colors.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you for the introduction to this beautiful book. I especially love these lines:
    "My mother long ago
    When she nursed me my first milk
    Said, “You are beautiful,”
    And I heard her."
    The universal experience in the personal. Be well. :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thank you for introducing this book. I love all the berries in all their rich shades. The ending of "What Shade is Human" is just perfect.

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  4. This book is on my list, but I haven't seen it yet. Thanks for this reminder. I love love love these lines,

    My mother long ago

    When she nursed me my first milk

    Said, “You are beautiful,”

    And I heard her.

    ReplyDelete
  5. This is such a gorgeous book. THe poem "The Blacker the Berry" is the highlight of it for me. My favorite lines in it are "Because I am dark the moon and stars

    shine brighter

    Because berries are dark the juice is sweeter"

    Thanks for sharing. Haven't read this in a long time!

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  6. I can’t imagine why I don’t recognize this book, even though amid course I recognize the saying of the title and the illustrations. I do love a suite of poems, especially connected by BERRIES!

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  7. Thanks for this! I do think my children heard and understood my words of love as I nursed them.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thank you for the insight into this book. Like others I especially connected with those lines: My mother long ago
    When she nursed me my first milk
    Said, “You are beautiful,”
    And I heard her.

    ReplyDelete

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