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Ellington Was Not a Street
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Ellington Was Not a Street

4.22  ·  Rating Details ·  999 Ratings  ·  152 Reviews
In a reflective tribute to the African-American community of old, noted poet Ntozake Shange recalls her childhood home and the close-knit group of innovators that often gathered there. These men of vision, brought to life in the majestic paintings of artist Kadir Nelson, lived at a time when the color of their skin dictated where they could live, what schools they could at ...more
Hardcover, 40 pages
Published January 1st 2004 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
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Feb 24, 2011 Kathryn rated it really liked it
I've become a huge fan of Kadir Nelson's wonderful breadth of work and his illustrations here are as expressive, moving and beautiful as ever! Just see if you can resist checking out the book after you take a look at that little girl's expression the cover...!!! ;-)

As for the book itself, I'm not sure it really worked for me as a picture book though I appreciate the intent behind it. The text is actually a poem by the well-respected author Ntozake Shange (it wasn't written for a picture book but
Casey Strauss
Jan 30, 2012 Casey Strauss rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-books
Ellington is not a Street is a picture book written by Ntozke Shange and illustrated beautifully by Kadir Nelson. It was the 2005 recipient of the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award. The book uses the poem Mood Indigo to tell the story from the point of view of a young girl as many influential African American men visit her father at their home. Some of the visitors are Paul Robeson, W.E.B. DuBois, and Dizzy Gillespie. Accompanying the story are beautiful illustration by Nelson, which breathe ...more
Lisa Vegan
This book’s cover illustration compelled me to borrow it from the library without knowing anything about it. So, it’s a poem story. The entire poem is on a single page at the end. The “story” has one line from the poem on each illustrated page. The illustrations are lovely. I never really warmed to the story. While it is interesting and inspirational, I was not wowed. Perhaps it was partly because the main character (the author?!) is a very little girl, and she’s relating all these African-Ameri ...more
Jan 17, 2009 Elizabeth rated it really liked it
Shelves: african-american
Ntozake Shange’s Ellington Was Not a Street is a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award winner ,and it is certainly easy to see why. Kadir Nelson’s double page illustrations are striking, and instantly evoke the time period as well as the different looks and personalities of the men mentioned in the book. The portraits of Robeson and DuBois, as they sat on the couch sipping tea, next to a sleeping girl covered in a man’s overcoat, exuded dignity and gravitas coupled with paternal sensitivity; it’s ...more
Aug 04, 2015 K rated it it was amazing
Ntozake Shange has been a favorite of mine since I wrote this 2010 review (under pen name which combines my first and middle names).

Ellington Was Not a Street is a wonderful poetic tale [actually her poem, MOOD INDIGO in book format] with lovely pictures by Kadir Nelson, and in the book with included audio cd format, the story is also narrated by the great Phylicia Rashad on a track, which combining her reading with the stunning color and vivid words was nothing short of amazing.
Lisa  Skripps
Oct 08, 2009 Lisa Skripps rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-books
Ellington Was Not a Street, by Ntozake Shange, is a unique tribute to various African American men who have made a difference over the years. In the story, incorporates inspirational men from Dr. Kwame Kkrumah, the President of Ghana, to John Birks "Dizzy" Gillespie. An adorable little girl brings us into her home as she remembers these influential men of her childhood. We feel the love she has for her father and can identify the important impact that these famous men had on her life; how they w ...more
CH _Kenya  Walker
Feb 05, 2010 CH _Kenya Walker rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Primary Teachers
Recommended to CH _Kenya by: Librarian
Shelves: picture-books
"Ellington Was Not a Street" is a fantastic story that gives the reader a snapshot into the home of Duke Ellington through the eyes of his daughter. This Coretta Scott King Award winning book, is a reflective tribute where Duke Ellington's daughter reminds us that Ellington street was more than a street named after a famous musician but that their home was the meeting ground for the innovators and thinkers of that time. In poetic prose she using history and culture to bring these men of vision t ...more
The illustrations are just as beautiful and expressive as Kadir Nelson's other work. He is one of my favorite artists.

The edition I had included a CD with the author reading the poem. It's a wonderful poem and she must have had such an amazing childhood mingling with all these great men who left a mark on the world.

However, unless you know who the men are, the book/poem will not make a lot of sense. It does include brief bios of each man at the end, which helps, but I would have preferred a mor
Alyson (Kid Lit Frenzy)
A little girl recalls the influential men who came by her house as a child and the strength and difference they made with their lives.
Winter Sophia Rose
Sep 20, 2014 Winter Sophia Rose rated it it was amazing
Classic For Our Children's Library!
Dec 09, 2016 Roger rated it it was amazing
Shelves: children
One of my favorite books I read this year. I flipped open the book and thought, WOW, THIS ART IS AMAZING! and wondered if I'd discovered a new illustrator I liked even more than my hero Kadir Nelson. But no. It's Kadir Nelson.

The poem is inspiring, educational, grounding. And Kwame Nkrumah! There's also another reference to Ghana in the appendix, which identifies some of the people in the book.

I love it.
Eric Hinkle
Jan 03, 2017 Eric Hinkle rated it really liked it
Great, historical, inspirational poem set to AMAZING illustrations by Kadir Nelson. I feel like anything he illustrates will be worth reading/seeing.

would be a great book for educational purposes, and a badass one to just cherish.
Feb 15, 2017 Danielle rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-books
If you're looking for a picture book that will grab your heart and spread love throughout your body, then this is it. Gorgeous illustrations and musical poetry text--completely perfect.
Annawade Stevenson
Oct 28, 2016 Annawade Stevenson rated it it was amazing
"Ellington Was Not a Street" by Ntozake Shange and illustrated by Kadir Nelson is a multicultural picture book about the men in history that helped African American people become accepted in the society, promote civil rights and serve as role models for younger Black people. The book is told from from the point of view of a young girl who grew up around men that changed the world. There is only one line on each page next to a large illustration on a single or double page spread. By the end of t ...more
Jyothi Gispanski
Mar 08, 2017 Jyothi Gispanski rated it it was amazing
CC: Afro American civil rights workers, Afro American artists, children's poetry, Afro American girls
The narrative of Ellington Was Not a Street comes from Ntozake Shange’s poem “Mood Indigo” (from A Daughter’s Geography, 1983). The poem, excerpted for the picture book, is a reflection of and tribute to a legacy of African American innovator, a “company of men” “who changed the world.” It is a personal poem of a young Shange (nee Paulette Williams) whose home nurtured and was nurtured by this company of men.

Only such gorgeously wrought poem could withstand the company of Kadir Nelson’s illustra
Bee Day
As a perused the juvenile section at the USF Tampa Library I was instantly taken aback by Kadir Nelson's illustrations in Ntoozake Shange's (1983) book, "Ellington was not a Street.” The book is about seven inches tall and five inches wide with an all green background. Centered in the middle of the cover is a little African American girl holding a record titled "Mood Indigo" by Duke Ellington and his Famous Orchestra. I became intrigued immediately so I grabbed the book and began reading it whil ...more
Kayla Davis
This book is about a woman reminiscing her time growing up as a child around great men who would someday change the world. She remembers these men before they had fully become what they may, when they were still young, many still aspiring for their dreams and fighting for their goals. Together, they all forged a community and ultimately a family, and they, along with many others, frequently gathered under her very own roof. The illustrations in this book are warm, soft, and intimate exuding the ...more
Sarah Holland
Feb 19, 2015 Sarah Holland rated it it was ok
Personal Reaction: The topic of this poem is very interesting from a historical standpoint. It reveals a lot about the nature of discrimination in the past and the outcomes of gaining rights through the Civil Rights movement through the hard work of notable activists, which I thought was an excellent integration of plot and and historical context. The illustrations are especially beautiful. Kadir Nelson won a Caldecott Medal for these particular paintings within the book.

-read aloud for
Ethelen V.
Mar 30, 2014 Ethelen V. rated it really liked it
Shelves: etl2368

Shange, N., & Nelson, K. (1983). Ellington was not a Street. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster.

Before Ellington was a street name, it was the name of a famous musician, Duke Ellington. On the cover of this book a young girl holds a record entitled "Mood Indigo" by Ellington. Ellington was this young girl's father. The young girl is Ntozake Shange, the author of this story. In this story, the young girl tells of her childhood and the men whom she considered as part of her family. Men such as
Emily Moog
Ellington Was Not A Street, written by Ntozake Shange and illustrated by Kadir Nelson gives history to Ntozake Shange’s childhood. Through lyrics to a song, written by Edward Ellington, a famous African American composer, bandleader, and pianist during segregational times, Shange is able to tell of the many important and historically impactful African American men who visited her home when she was young. This book contains many requirements to receiving a Coretta Scott King award. True to the de ...more
Swear Ahmed
Apr 08, 2014 Swear Ahmed rated it really liked it
Ellington Was Not a Street is a book that uses a poem to tell a story of how things used to be. It is also considered a picture book and won the Once Upon A World Children’s Book Award (2005),as well as a Coretta Scott King Award for Illustrator (2005). I think this book is for children ages 5-9 but I think an older child in that range would better appreciate it.
The book uses a poem called Mood Indigo to tell the story of all the characters in the book one of which is Duke Ellington. The cove
Feb 19, 2015 Julie rated it really liked it
Shelves: children-s
Ages K-grade 3 (and on up)
(^^ That was the recommended age I found, but I'm not sure that it would work under 2nd grade because you'd have to do a lot of studying of the people mentioned in this book before reading it. Otherwise it makes no sense.)

I liked this one. Quite honestly, though, I wouldn't have recognized it as a poem if it hadn't been in the poetry section, so I'm really glad that this class is helping to stretch my recognition of what a poem is.

This is told in free verse, in a pict
Ellington Was Not a Street
Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award

K-4th grade

The illustrations done by Kadir Nelson are realistic and look like paintings. Nelson captures details in clothing and facial expression while using soft lines and an earthy color palette. Shange uses minimal text on each page that is enclosed in a box. The text is sparse, and the illustrations cover the full page. The illustrations look like family photographs capturing warm memories of social gatherings inside a home. The
Steven Reid
Dec 05, 2012 Steven Reid rated it really liked it
Shelves: junior-book
1. Genre: Autobiography

2. Summary: This book is a recollection of the many famous African Americans who visited the author's home when she was a child. Ntozake speaks of Robeson, Ellington, Barretto, du Bois, Gillespie, Nkrumah, and others and how they are more than just famous names.

3a. Illustrations

3b. The illustrations in this book show the ease and comfort of a family home, even with famous names in it. On each page different events are occurring, such as coffee, a poker game, drinks, a part
Ch_hayley Medsker
Mar 02, 2010 Ch_hayley Medsker rated it liked it
Shelves: historical-fic
Shange's Ellington Was Not a Street, is a picture book about historical greats in the black community, told through a child's eyes. The wonderfully illustrated pictures by Kadir Nelson and poetic words by Ntozake Shange is definitley a book geared towards older readers. Readers will have to bring a knowledge of prominent figures in African American society from the early 1900's til present. The rich and powerful representations of movement, facial expression, and mood provide the reader with an ...more
Bridget Dettmann
Mar 22, 2016 Bridget Dettmann rated it liked it
While this book is beautiful both in its pictures and its words, it was not what I was expecting. This was recommended to me as a book to use with a unit about jazz music. For this purpose, it did not fit the bill!

This book would be great to use in an upper elementary class as an introduction to important people in black history. The poem mentions many famous names such as Paul Robeson, Ray Baretto, and Duke Ellington. However, it only mentions names. The back of the book does provide a very ni
Flora Stan
Ellington Was Not A Street is written by Ntozake Shange and Illustrated by Kadir Nelson. This book, being not of many words, serves as a truly beautiful tribute to famous African Americans that have shaped our country into what it is today. The story tells of different African American men such as Robeson, DuBois, Ray Barretto, Sonny Til, Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington, and more. The pictures take you back to a different time and bring you right into the scenes with the featured African America ...more
Nov 26, 2010 Nancy rated it it was amazing
Published: 2004, Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
Age: 8-15
Shange’s poem, “Mood Indigo” is told on the pages with beautiful oil paintings by Kadir Nelson of black heroes. Shange is first pictured as an adult walking down Ellington Street under an umbrella and then again in the middle of the poem. She is the narrator and speaks of when she was young, and these famous men came to her home to see her father. Shange appears in a blue dress in almost every scene. Reading it makes you wonder
Jan 14, 2011 Leane rated it really liked it
"Ellington Was Not a Street" is written in a poetic form. It is told by a little girl in a blue dress, and she seems to want to express the idea that we need to continually remember the great African American activists and musicians of the past. One-by-one, influencial men like Dizzy Gillespie and W.E.B. DuBois arrive at her house. All of these men represent the strength that African Americans cultivated and their mission to fight for a cause. This book is simple, yet powerful. I particularly en ...more
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Ntozake Shange (pronounced En-toe-ZAHK-kay SHONG-gay) is an African-American playwright, performance artist, and writer who is best known for her Obie Award winning play for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf.

Among her honors and awards are fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund, and a Pushcart Prize.
More about Ntozake Shange...

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