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Tar Beach

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  8,539 ratings  ·  483 reviews
Ringgold recounts the dream adventure of eight-year-old Cassie Louise Lightfoot, who flies above her apartment-building rooftop, the 'tar beach' of the title, looking down on 1939 Harlem.

Part autobiographical, part fictional, this allegorical tale sparkles with symbolic and historical references central to African-American culture. The spectacular artwork resonates with c
Paperback, 32 pages
Published December 3rd 1996 by Dragonfly Books (first published 1991)
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Average rating 4.13  · 
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This is a little memoir set in 1930s Harlem. The theme of flying as metaphor for freedom and being free is used to wonderful effect here. It is an African American tradition I learned from this book. Faith has written this story out of her own days of laying on the rooftop and looking at the stars on summer nights and flying over the city.

This was also made into a quilt, well it was a quilt first and then Faith developed it into this story. We see the quilt squares around the edges of the page.

I have actually seen this book on an episode of “Reading Rainbow” and I thought that this book was great! “Tar Beach” is a Caldecott Honor Book and Coretta Scott King Honor Book by Faith Ringgold that is about a young girl named Cassie Louise Lightfoot who tells the audience about how she flies in the sky over the city and relates her tale to the audience. “Tar Beach” is certainly a memorable book that children will love to read!

After reading this book, I started taking an interest in the art of
Although Faith Ringgold's text is sweet and touching (providing both an enchanting story and much food for thought and discussion, as well as deeper analysis), I have to admit that I do not really seem to understand the concept and significance of the flying dream all that much or all that well. I have had dreams of flying myself, but for me, these dreams have generally always been ones of escaping to an alternate, better reality, to fairyland or the historical past so to speak, and not generall ...more
Apr 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: realism, picture
I didn't actually read this; I listened to the author read it.
Alyson (Kid Lit Frenzy)
I read this when it first came out. And I read it again a few years ago, and now I just read it for the 3rd+++++ time. However, I think I am finally understanding it at a deeper level.
Mar 10, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: parents reading with their children
This is a nice story about the wonders of imagination and the joys of city life.

Where else but in a city of high-rise buildings like New York City could a little girl go up to the "tar beach" on the roof of a building, have a party surrounded by the dark of the sky and the lights of the buildings around you and admire the sparkling jewel lights of a bridge that her own father helped to build?

Fun story, with gorgeous illustrations and dark, bold colors. We loved the background information on th
L-Crystal Wlodek
Jan 20, 2010 rated it really liked it
Summary: This picture book, illustrated in a quilt-like fashion, is intended for readers 4-8 years of age and is a Caldecott Honor book. This book is about the universal wish of freedom. It delightfully balances dreams of a young girl and the injustices of the adult world. One night, as Cassie Lightfoot lays on “tar beach” which is the rooftop of her apartment building, the stars lift her up, allowing her to fly all round the city. While flying, she claims all of the buildings her own so her fam ...more
Aug 31, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: caldecott
1992 Caldecott Honor - Favorite Illustration: I like the picture of the adults on the roof playing cards together while the children sleep nearby.
When first reading this book, I was slightly confused as to what it was meant to be. However, after reading the extensive author's note, then reading through the book again it made more sense. Cassie is a young girl who dreams of a better life for herself and her family, and she is able to accomplish this by flying over and "claiming" building for her
Alicia Ard
Jan 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
"Tar Beach" is a journey through the mind of Cassie Louise Lightfoot. Cassie is an eight-year-old African-American girl whose lower-class family lives in New York. The story originated as a very colorful story quilt and later evolved into book form.

Tar Beach is the name Cassie has given the rooftop of the apartment complex in which she resides. It is a nice gathering place for families to spend hot summer nights.

Cassie tells us that when she visits Tar Beach, she can fly anywhere she pleases. Th
Feb 15, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: childrens
This book was not at all what I expected it to be, and for that, I am grateful. The title made me think of an oil spill accident in the ocean. How depressing! The title is referring to using the roof tops in the city like a beach, laying out under the stars. Tar Beach is mainly about a little girl admiring her surroundings at night in NYC and briefly about her family life.

There are some things that seemed not quite right, though. If you live in the city and you look up, you don't really see any
Apr 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Tar Beach is the story of a young girl named Cassie Lightfoot and her unique perspective of Harlem in the 1930’s. Cassie flies above her black tar rooftop and has a bird’s eye view of her city in which she recounts some of the different things she sees such as her most prized possession, the George Washington Bridge, and her father’s workplace at a union building where he is a construction worker.

The book has a very positive message about the need to dream and flourish while still containing und
Ch_beth Rice
Jan 23, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mc-literature
This Caldecott Honor book earned it's award with it's beautiful depiction of how powerful imagination can be. I love the way Faith Ringgold shows the hardships that Cassie's family faces, and how Cassie does what she can to help her family through the power of her imagination. I also love how Ringgold shows that although her family has many challenges they also find joy in simple things such as picnics on their roof. A wonderful book to show a different way of life to young children and explore ...more
Aug 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
The story is whimsical and yet somewhat historical/autobiographical in nature. The narrator imagines flying through the air and whatever she flies over belongs to her. I really appreciated the author's note because it increased my appreciation for and comprehension of the text. The illustrations are gorgeous...I love the quilt squares along the bottom of each page...and I love them even more after seeing the quilt that Ringgold created to tell this story. The paintings are rich with color and de ...more
Feb 21, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mc-literature
Faith Ringgold's Tar Beach is an amazing story that utilizes her art work as the illustration. Tar Beach, although Ringgold's first book, won critical acclaim as well as a Caldecott Honor and a Coretta Scott King Award for Illustration, and it continues to be a favorite among children and adults alike. The story is about a girl that fly over her neighborhood to claim the George Washington Bridge. It is a story that I would use in grade 3-5. ...more
Debbie Hoskins
I can't believe I forgot this book. It has one of my favorite quotes in it. "I have told him it's very easy, anyone can fly. All you need is somewhere to go that you can't get to any other way. The next thing you know, you're flying among the stars."
This book is based on one of Faith Ringgold's quilts, which I love! I had the blessing to be able to see her quilts in person with a dear artist friend at the art museum in Kalamazoo.
Jennifer (JenIsNotaBookSnob)
Really liked this one. Don't miss reading older children the last page about Ringgold's quilt in the Guggenheim museum. I had to paraphrase that last page a bit for my 5 year old, but, got most of the main points in. Good opportunity to explain the variations in the American Experience to small children. ...more
Courtney Barter
Jan 22, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: kidlit
Tar Beach is a book about a young girl who has a dream about flying above her house and viewing her world from above. The book is based in 1939 when the little girl is eight years old. Her dream comes true in this book! Coretta Scott King award winning book.
Fenixbird SandS
1991 CALDECOTT HONOR PICTURE BOOK MY SYNOPSIS: Many large, tall skyscrapers surround the George Washington Bridge, a lighted suspension bridge, which Harlem overlooks. Atop one of these buildings young Cassie, her brother, parents and Mrs. and Mrs. Honey enjoy potlucks, card games, and whimsy on the rooftop which they name “Tar Beach.” Here Cassie soars over the city wearing the lights of the bridge as a necklace. She learns to “fly” here and feels she can own anything!
THEME: Cassie, a third gra
Sandra Couch
Jan 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold is a story about Cassie Louise Lightfoot an eight year old girl who flys around New York City. While her parents and the next-door neighbors play cards, Cassie and Be Be, her brother, lay on mattresses of Tar Beach, the rooftop of their family apartment building. Cassie flies away from the city introducing the union building that her dad works on as a construction worker, and the issue that he isn’t allowed to join the union because he is colored and a half-breed Indi ...more
Sep 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing

Awards:Caldecott Honor Book, Coretta Scott King Award

This story is taken from a quilt the author sewed as part of a series (images of a quilt are visible along the border of each page). Ringgold changed some of the words from her quilt and painted canvases to be used as the illustrations of this imaginative story of a third-grade African American girl. She spends summers playing on the ‘tar beach’ (the rooftop of her building) with her family. She lays on the ‘tar beach’ and
Jennifer Ruiz
Oct 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a wonderful story told by an 8 year old girl named Cassie that dreams and fantasizes of being free to go wherever she wants for the rest of her life. Flying is how this 3rd grader achieves her dream! This goes back to African-American folktale literature as slaves spoke of "flying" to freedom as a metaphor for escaping from slavery.

In the story it is clearly stated that Cassie's father can not be a part of the union which references to more contemporary African-American history. Cassie'
Mar 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Tar Beach is a book that tells a story of a 3rd grade girl who's family enjoys spending time of the rooftop of their building, which they call "Tar Beach". There, she can "fly" because she can see everything and feels like she is on top of the world. The book represents an African-American family and the father who is a construction worker in the city. Cassie, the young girl, likes to pretend that she can fly over all of the buildings in the city and that she can own them all one day. She talks ...more
Lindsay Fischer
Sep 15, 2014 rated it liked it
Tar Beach is partially an autobiography and a fictional narrative. The story is about a girl who flies through her city. From above, she sees her family and neighbors and all the buildings that surround her home. She claims the buildings are hers if she flies over them. So, she flies over many things in the city as a way to help out her family. Tar Beach is actually the rooftop of a building where her family and friends spend time together on hot nights.
The author, Faith Ringgold, is also the
Robert Leabo
Mar 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Tar Beach, by Faith Ringgold. Published by Dragonfly Books in 1996. 32 pages.
In the book a young Faith Ringgold has a dream where she flies around NYC and claims everything she sees for herself. Along the way she talks about how each part of the city is important to her and her family and why she wants to claim it as her own.
We’ll use the book to discuss families, cultures, diversity and identity. It can also be used to compare where people live: rural or urban. In this book the illustrations ar
Briana Nelson
This book reminded me of my childhood. My mom would read me this story before bed, and I really enjoyed looking at the pictures. Reading this book now gives me a different perspective because I was able to see underlying themes. Reading it when I was young, I only thought it was about a family living on a roof and a girl could fly. Now, I am able to understand that this book is about socioeconomics and and following your dreams. A young girl- who's family is oppressed- finally gets a chance to e ...more
Jan 01, 2012 marked it as recommended-for-meredith
I've been reading some articles on development during the pre-teen years and found this quote. If I remember correctly, Ringgold is an artist. I didn't know that she wrote as well.

I will always remember when the stars fell down around me and lifted me up above the George Washington Bridge...Lying on the roof in the night, with the stars and skyscraper buildings all around me made me feel rich, like I owned all that I could see. The bridge was my most prized possession...

Me, Cassie Louise Lightfo
I liked the border of colored squares along the bottom pages of the book. I also enjoyed the imaginative mind of the little girl. I did enjoy looking at the illustrations, but I didn't think they were beyond spectacular or anything. I liked the story, but it just didn't click as much as I would have liked, otherwise it would have gotten a higher rating.

*Taken from my book reviews blog:
Angela Moorer
This book is beautiful and I believe it is great to be shared for the historical aspect it conatins. Reading it at first, I didnt really understand the title. The understanding didnt come until reading it many more times and understanding that the "beach" can be anywhere where relaxation and enjoyment occurs. This book had awesome illustrations and students are sure to be able to appreciate them. This would definitely be a read aloud and we would research some of the historical aspects offered. ...more
Oct 09, 2013 rated it it was ok
Week 8 picture book.

I never thought about having a beach on a rooftop. This made me think about how every child can see a situation from a different perspective. I liked this book because it had hidden themes about real-life issues, such as poverty, unemployment, racism, etc. I loved the artwork but I'm not sure students would really understand that this story is about a dream, or be able to see the hidden themes and ideas in this book.
Jan 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: children-s-books
One of my all time favorite children's books. When I've read this aloud to children they always have a wonderfully excited response and allows them to live the dream of flying up and getting a different perspective on their own life and things around them. Also this book could be used as a way to introduce Faith Ringgold's art of painted story quilts and I could see kids loving to make their own story quilts as a craft. ...more
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