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22 April 2024  BLACK GIRL YOU ARE ATLAS by Renée Watson and Ekua Holmes, ill., Penguin Random House/Kokila, February 2024, 96p., ISBN: 978-0-593-46170-9


“Rock steady, baby

That's what I feel now

Let's call this song exactly what it is

Step and move your hips with a feeling from side to side

Sit yourself down in your car and take a ride

And while you’re moving rock steady

Rock steady, baby”

– Aretha Franklin (1972)


“...Where I’m from music takes away the blues.

I’m from Bob Marley. Mahalia Jackson.

Aretha Franklin. James Brown.

I’m from Jackson 5 records and New Edition tapes.

Where I’m from we rewind the tapes over and over

and over again so we can write down the lyrics

and memorize them.


Where I’m from the whole neighborhood is your family:

ladies sit on their porches looking out for you,

shooin’ away boys like flies,

callin’ your momma to tell her what you did

before you can get home and lie about it.


Where I’m from people ask my friend,

‘Is that your hair?’ and she says, ‘Yeah, it’s mine. I bought it.’


I’m from divorce being passed down to children

like a family heirloom.

From single mommas pushing strollers,

praying that their babies don’t have the same struggles as them…”


BLACK GIRL YOU ARE ATLAS is a powerful and beautiful, semi-autobiographical, coming-of-age picture book. It is a collection of poems inspired by and informed by the life and cultural heritage of award-winning author Renée Watson. It will wow and inform and thoroughly engage any number of tweens and teens–particularly if you can take a quick read yourself, and get psyched about sharing it. Like I have gotten. 


I can so imagine a sixth- or seventh- or eighth-grade English teacher parceling out the thirty-eight poems to students and having them practice and then go round and round performing them aloud. The poetry is elegant and dramatic and inspirational, and filled with truth and caution. It's a picture book for older readers that deserves plenty of attention. 


Illustrator Ekua Holmes hits it out of the park with the frame-worthy cover. Her collage art throughout the book is inviting and attractive.


“Wield Your Laughter


like the weapon it is.

Flaunt it in the face of your fears.

Cock your head back,

slap your knee,

howl, cackle,

be too loud,

be high-pitched,

be deep bellow,

let the tears fall,

let the belly ache,

let breath escape your lungs,

let your shoulders shake,

let your cheeks turn red.

This is how you mend,

how you endure,

how you hold onto joy

while you wait for happiness.


Great poetry. Great art. Great story. You’ll want to see this one.


Richie Partington, MLIS

Richie's Picks http://richiespicks.pbworks.com





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