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Leslie Rounds (Children's Literature)
Utilizing simple, colorful, cut-paper collages, this book is an adaptation of an African folk tale from the Ila-speaking people of Zambia. Blackbird is admired by the other birds of the forest because his feathers gleam with all the colors of the sun, and all the other birds are just one color each. Blackbird offers to mix up a special blackening brew and share it with the other birds, even though he also tells them that "Color on the outside is not what's on the inside." He gives the other birds black highlights, and the book concludes with the words, "Black is beautiful, UH-HUH!" Very simple, rhythmic text accompanies equally simple illustrations. The book does not include any source material for the folk tale. Because of its uncomplicated presentation, this book would be useful in making an African folk tale accessible to a very young audience, and the colorful illustrations and cheerful theme would please most young children. 2003, Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster, $16.95. Ages 3 to 8.
CCBC (Cooperative Children's Book Center Choices, 2004)
Of all of the birds in the forest, Blackbird was considered the most beautiful. All of the other birds envied his beautiful black feathers, despite their own bright colors. Even though Blackbird assures them it's what they have on the inside that makes them beautiful, they eventually convince him to stir a "blackening brew." He uses this to paint specks and stripes and spots of black on their feathers. Ashley Bryan's rhythmic prose and stunning, vibrant cut-paper collages retell this Zambian folk tale that celebrates the beauty of all creatures both outside and in. CCBC categories: Folklore, Mythology, and Traditional Literature; Picture Books for School-Aged Children; Picture Books for Toddlers and Preschoolers. 2003, Atheneum, 36 pages, $16.95. Ages 4-8.
Kirkus (Kirkus Reviews, December 1, 2002 (Vol. 70, No. 23))
Blackbird shares his gifts with the birds of Africa in this colorful read-aloud. This adaptation of an Ila story tells of long ago, when all the birds have solid colored, unpatterned feathers, and only Blackbird has any black at all. The other birds agree that Blackbird is the most beautiful, as his black feathers "gleam all colors in the sun." Blackbird mixes up a little something in his medicine gourd, and presents each bird with some black patterns of its own. The birds are happy with their new designs, and chorus, "Black is beautiful, UH-HUH." This telling, by the master storyteller, just aches to be read aloud; the lively rhythms keep the simple folktale rollicking along. The cut-paper collage illustrations are full of color, but it's of blandly similar intensity until Blackbird arrives with his blackening brew. Then the newly patterned birds, gleaming in high-contrast images with their new designs, make for visual excitement as they praise Blackbird for their new look. A good start at challenging learned ways of reading color that reserve black for scary or dull images, the text implies a racial metaphor (unless the refrain "black is beautiful" is focused only on rethinking artistic codes), yet whatever message of tolerance or self-love the text might hold is obscure. Blackbird talks of the difference a little black can make, but he also emphasizes that external appearances do not reflect the inner self. Which of the two is more important is never clarified. Still, the rolling language and appealing illustrations make this a must. 2003, Atheneum, $16.95. Category: Picture book/folktale. Ages 4 to 7. © 2002 Kirkus Reviews/VNU eMedia, Inc. All rights reserved.
Publishers Weekly (Publishers Weekly)
Storyteller Bryan's (
Janice M. Del Negro (The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, February 2003 (Vol. 56, No. 6))
Bryan tells the story of Blackbird, who, “a long, long time ago,” was voted the most beautiful of all the birds in Africa. The pallid Ringdove takes Blackbird aside and asks, “Oh, Blackbird, Blackbird, coo-coo-roo, coo-ca-roo, would you color me black so that I’ll be black like you?” Blackbird explains that “color on the outside is not what’s on the inside,” but he promises to brew some blackening in his medicine gourd to “swing a ring” around Ringdove’s neck to go along with his name. Not surprisingly, when Ringdove is thus decorated the other birds want decorations, too, and Blackbird uses his blackening potion to make them all happy. The plot is somewhat slight and the momentum sometimes falters, but Bryan’s adaptation of this African tale (from the Ila people of Zambia, according to a source note) makes good use of syncopated language that suffuses the proceedings with joie de vivre. Cut-paper collage birds of many colors flutter through the pages against white and colored backgrounds; on some pages the hues seem washed out, and even when the defining black is added the compositions are scattered, lacking the driving rhythm of the text. The contrast between the black decorations and the colored paper lends emphasis to the visuals and to the message, however, and the new-construction-paper freshness of the medium will invite appreciation from skillful young scissors-wielders. A clear message, replicable art techniques, and storytelling possibilities make this a title rife with potential curricular connections. Review Code: Ad -- Additional book of acceptable quality for collections needing more material in the area. (c) Copyright 2003, The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. 2003, Atheneum, 32p, $16.95. Ages 5-9 yrs.
Ginny Hoskins (The Lorgnette - Heart of Texas Reviews (Vol. 16, No. 4))
Long ago, all the birds were of different colors--red, blue, yellow--but they all had only one color. All the birds agreed that Blackbird was the most beautiful, and they begged him to share some of his black color with them. Blackbird agreed to brew up some blackening in his medicine gourd and give some to all the birds, but he reminded them that real beauty comes from inside. Adapted from a folktale told in Zambia, the message of the story is good, and the author’s cut paper illustrations are wonderful. The vocabulary level makes this a good book for reading aloud to the younger students, and the older ones can enjoy it on their own. Nonfiction (398.2). Grades K-3. 2003, Atheneum Books, Unpaged., $16.95. Ages 5 to 9.
|Language||Call Number||LCCN||Dewey Decimal||ISBN/ISSN|
|English (eng)||PZ8.1.B838 Bg 2003
398.2 /096894/04528 E