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Finding Langston #1

Finding Langston

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In a debut historical novel about the Great Migration a boy discovers Chicago's postwar South Side and the poetry of Langston Hughes.

When 11-year-old Langston's mother dies in 1946, he and his father leave rural Alabama for Chicago's brown belt as a part of what came to be known as the Great Migration. It's lonely in the small apartment with just the two of them, and at school Langston is bullied. But his new home has one fantastic thing. Unlike the whites-only library in Alabama, the local public library welcomes everyone. There, hiding out after school, Langston discovers another Langston, a poet whom he learns inspired his mother enough to name her only son after him.

112 pages, Hardcover

First published August 14, 2018

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Lesa Cline-Ransome

36 books245 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 872 reviews
Profile Image for Brina.
876 reviews4 followers
January 17, 2021
On my ever evolving quest to find quality books for young readers, my goodreads feed lead me to a new historical fiction by Lesa Cline- Ransome, a veteran author of many picture books for younger children. Cline- Ransome has developed a historical fiction series for middle grade readers that takes them inside of the Great Migration and into northern cities in the 1940s. In this first book in the series, reader are transported to the Bronzeville neighborhood in Chicago’s southside at a time when integration and making gains in society was first becoming a reality for African Americans. It is in this regard that we meet Langston, an eleven year old who has made the Great Migration north.

Langston and his father Henry have moved from the red clay of Alabama to Chicago. Langston’s mother never took to farming and then she grew ill, cared for by her mother- in- law until she passed. Langston’s father did not think that he could care for a child on his own on a farm and decided to move north in search of better opportunities for both him and his son. The two move to Chicago, Henry finding a job in a factory and Langston enrolling in a school, unheard of for colored children in the south. If all goes to plan, Henry would earn enough money to send for his sister Lena and her family, and they would join the rest of the family in the north. It is up to Langston to navigate the streets and schools of Bronzeville while his father is at work, making him proud and living up to the life that his mother had desired for him.

Life in Bronzeville ain’t no crystal stair. Langston is called “country boy” by his new classmates, and this gang of boys picks fights with him just because they can. Langston finds refuge in the George Hall Public Library, a library that is open to all Chicago residents. In Alabama, the only access to books that Langston had was when his cousins in Ohio sent his mother packages. It is under the watchful eye of children’s librarian Mrs Cook that Langston discovers another Langston, one who writes poetry and lifts him above his station in life. This Langston penned words about traveling the world as the adolescent Langston is determined to read every one of his books starting with The Weary Blues and The Big Sea. It is happily shocking to him that there are African American writers starting with this other Langston and Chicago’s own Gwendolyn Brooks as well as a literary circle who give public talks at the library. Langston is determined to follow in their footsteps, exposing his father to literature in the process.

There is so little quality historical fiction available to middle grade readers. Either that or my kids have moved to the teen section of the library, leaving behind the wide world of children’s books in their wake. In my experience, there is plenty of fantasy, mysteries, and realistic fiction, but when it comes to historical fiction, there has to be an element of fantasy involved, or the prevailing belief is that kids will not be interested in the books. Lesa Cline- Ransome does not need fantasy or mythology to bring history to life. She uses the words of Langston Hughes as his poetry opens worlds to kids and adults who might be reading his words for the first time. In any time or place, children who do not have the easiest of times navigating through life have found refuge in books. The Langston in this story is no different as he escapes into books in order to spend some time away from the turmoil in his life. Receiving encouragement from Mrs Cook and his neighbor Pearl, a school teacher, Langston believes that if he tries hard in school, he can be a writer too.

Langston Hughes remains one of my favorite poets. While his words speak of the African American experience during the Harlem Renaissance that was indeed no crystal stair, like the era he wrote in, his words were jazz in motion. I prefer the chaos of improve jazz to traditional rhyming couplets, so poets like Hughes and Gwendolyn Brooks and Margaret Walker are still a joy for me to read today. Lesa Cline- Ransome has exposed kids to these historical figures in an accessible manner while also encouraging them to patronize the library. Langston Hughes and the library in one book for middle grade kids; you can’t get much better than that. I am looking forward to the next books in this series.

📚 4 stars 📚
Profile Image for Joanne Kelleher.
644 reviews5 followers
December 11, 2020
This is such a special book, well-deserving of its Coretta Scott King Honor Medal. Cline-Ransome packed so much in a scant 112 pages!! Of course, what appealed to my nerdy self was all the library love. It is a love letter to the George Cleveland Hall branch of the Chicago Public Library, where Langston found himself in the writings of his famous namesake. It also portrays librarians in the very best light! The poems featured in the book were accessible for middle grade readers and provide a springboard for further exploration of the works of Langston Hughes. But it's not just a story about a kid at the library; it is a multi-layered story that includes bullying, racism, missing a parent, a father-son relationship, and a little bit of history about the Great Migration and the Harlem Renaissance, never feeling forced or overdone. It is a deceptively simple story with so much to offer.
Profile Image for Cheryl .
8,920 reviews391 followers
July 25, 2019
Unlike a lot of historical fiction for children, this is actually a joy to read. Not a whole lot of giggles or such, but it's concise, immersive, and heartwarming, and just a great story. Our hero reads poetry *and* (when turning the other cheek doesn't work) puts the bully in his place. Lots going on behind the scenes, too, like the teacher's inability to control the class w/out screaming (and it's not even winter yet... how can she escalate to last the rest of the year?) and the question about whether or not the dad is semi-illiterate; lots for kids to think about.

I sure do appreciate our boy's desire to have something special for himself, to not want to tell his dad about the library right away.

I think teachers should be careful to let kids have this book to themselves, instead of discussing and analyzing it to death. Some discussion, w/ the right group, w/ the teacher as facilitator more than lecturer, could be ok, but don't spoil the book by telling kids how to feel about it.

I will look for more by the author, including her picture-books.
Profile Image for Laura Harrison.
975 reviews111 followers
January 27, 2019
One of my top favorite middle grade readers of the year. Beautifully written, warm and one children will enjoy. I hope it wins an award or two!
Profile Image for Darla.
3,150 reviews446 followers
February 25, 2019
Lots of love for this heartfelt novel featuring a boy who has been transplanted from rural Alabama to Chicago in the middle of the Great Migration. Not only is he living in a new setting, he is also missing his mama who died just before his daddy decided they should move. While trying to evade a gang of bullies from his school he stumbles across the neighborhood library and becomes a regular visitor. He is amazed to discover that there are books by a man with his same first name -- Langston. The author weaves the poetry of Langston Hughes into the life of this young boy helping him to keep the memories of his mama alive while growing in his new setting. Highly recommended!
Profile Image for Jeimy.
4,400 reviews33 followers
February 11, 2019
I loved this story about a young boy reawakening his love of reading thanks to a public library and the poetry of his namesake.
Profile Image for Reading_ Tamishly.
3,946 reviews2,171 followers
February 6, 2022
It seems like I am reading all the books that would make me cry.

This one is so sad and beautiful. But also so hopeful and wholesome.

The story is about a little kid who is getting bullied as he struggles in his school making sure he is no trouble to anyone. He just doesn't want to disappoint his father who's struggling to make both ends meet everyday.

The book talks about grief; racism, bullying. But more importantly the book talks more about books! I wasn't expecting it. I love the book more as it involves a library giving solace to this young boy and some unexpected friendships.

I love how this short story focused on poetry specially poetry by authors of similar background to the characters.

This book is something I would cherish forever. The father son bond and unexpected kindness of strangers made this read much more special.
Profile Image for Kat.
205 reviews155 followers
May 2, 2022
I’m very sorry to say that I didn’t enjoy this book at all. It was a very short read and still, I had to force myself to finish it.

The story takes place in 1946 Chicago, set against the backdrop of the Great Migration, where 6 million African Americans left the South to move to Northern states. Originally from Alabama, 11-year-old Langston and his father have moved to Chicago after the death of Langston’s mother. He is a teenager who is bullied at school while his father works hard to support the two. One day, Langston accidentally stumbles upon the local library and finds solace not only in books but especially in the poetry of Langston Hughes, the person he later learns he was named after.

Even though I didn't enjoy it because I found it to be a bit bland, I can see that this book might work when reading it in school in grades 7-8. I must say that I didn’t find the writing style particularly beautiful or interesting. He and his father speak a Southern dialect, something that contributes to Langston’s bullies calling him ‘country boy’. What irritated me immensely is that because he is the first-person narrator, Langston’s internal monologues, as well as thoughts and feelings, were also “written in dialect”. I get that it is a stylistic choice but it bothered me because it made for a not-so-smooth reading experience.

The novel discusses the topics of losing a parent, standing up to one’s bullies, falling in love with reading and poetry, and the relationship between father and son, which is why it might work for a younger audience. However, it didn't work for me.
Profile Image for Amanda M (The Curly Reader).
312 reviews527 followers
April 15, 2021
This. Book.

I just don't even know where to start. I listened to the audiobook of this (which is brilliantly narrated by Dion Graham) and immediately after finishing it went out and purchased the hard copy for my shelves because I knew it was one I was going to be wanting to revisit over and over again.

In this book we meet Langston, a young black boy who has relocated to Chicago from Alabama as part of the Great Migration. For the first time in his life he is able to visit the library in Chicago and upon one of his visits finds the work of the poet Langston Hughes. The connection he makes with books, poetry, and the library in general was nothing short of brilliant. There were so many passages in this book that gave me all the feels.

Definitely recommend getting your hands on this one as soon as you can!
Profile Image for Phil J.
691 reviews52 followers
December 31, 2020
Great, compact story about a boy in the Great Migration. I'm really impressed by the quantity of historical information Cline-Ransome was able to show in a very accessible way. The characters were well-drawn and interesting. The story was simple and direct, which I would say is a strength.

I think a lot of authors would approach this topic in a 300+ page epic that describes at least one year of time and goes into greater detail about all the historical concepts. I appreciate Cline-Ransome's restraint and choice to tell a quieter, simpler story that would reach more readers. I'm looking forward to sharing this book with my students.
Profile Image for Amanda Workman.
410 reviews2 followers
July 10, 2020
Short, beautiful book set in Chicago after WWII of a “country boy” and his father trying to make it in the city. Moving to Chicago from Alabama after his mother dies Langston finds the library is open to blacks. While running from bullies Langston runs in and finds a haven amongst the stacks and is drawn to poetry. He discovers his namesake and other black writers while also learning about the beauty of language that in turn, helps him not feel so homesick.
I picked this book up and did not put it down until I was finished. I loved Langston, his father, his neighbor, Ms Fulton, and the librarian of course. Would be a great read aloud for grades 4-8.
Profile Image for Cortney.
278 reviews39 followers
February 14, 2019
Mini Me Rating & Review: The first part was really entertaining but I started to lose interest towards the end.
Profile Image for Summer.
1,337 reviews15 followers
July 21, 2022
Really enjoyed this book. I will probably be adding it to my kids middle school reads. I accidentally erased my review because it was showing up twice.
Profile Image for TL .
1,765 reviews35 followers
February 24, 2022
*Overdrive app *

Narration: 4 stars 🌟
Story/characters: 4 stars 🌟

Nice story:)
And some history I didn't know, plus a poet to check out.
Profile Image for Kristy.
23 reviews1 follower
March 7, 2020
I located Finding Langston by Lesa Cline-Ransome through the Scott O’Dell Award website (https://scottodell.com/the-scott-odel...). It won the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction in 2019 and was also a Coretta Scott King Honor Book.

Eleven year old Langston and his father move to Chicago from Alabama after the death of his mother in 1946. Langston’s father is able to find work, but the living conditions are not great. They live in a kitchenette apartment in a crowded building that is not maintained well, and Langston struggles with grief, loneliness, and bullying. One day Langston stumbles upon a library, something he did not have in Alabama. There he discovers Langston Hughes, which brings him comfort and a connection to home and his mother. Langston’s character is well-developed and likeable, which elicits empathy from the reader. The story honors the deep emotions that children can feel and reminds readers of the power in finding a good book.

The sense of time and place is strong. Langston and his father represent part of the Second Great Migration, when millions of African-Americans moved north after World War II hoping to find work and escape the persecution of the South. They live in Bronzeville, the African-American neighborhood born out of the city’s segregation. The difficulties they face in Chicago are portrayed through details about their kitchenette apartment, worn clothing, and unsafe working conditions. In addition to these harsh realities, Lesa Cline-Ransome celebrates culture by showcasing Langston Hughes and other prominent African-American authors.

The book is appropriate for third grade and up. It would be a good selection for an older struggling reader as well. Students could study character traits and analyze how Langston changes throughout the story. The historical accuracy makes it a good fit for Social Studies as well.

I listened to the audiobook on Audible, read by Dion Graham. He conveyed Langston’s voice well and read the story with emotion.
Profile Image for DaNae.
1,298 reviews74 followers
December 27, 2018
One more "important" book in a year of "important" books. Shines a light on the Great Migration through a displaced southern boy in post-war Chicago. Can't help but love the library scenes. Otherwise, the story felt bland and something to get through and check off the box.
Profile Image for Andrew.
97 reviews8 followers
September 29, 2019
Langston's story connects to Princess X's because both characters mothers have passed away.
Profile Image for Annissa Joy Armstrong.
242 reviews37 followers
December 26, 2020
This is a very enjoyable book that touches on the loss of a parent, bullying, poetry, father/son relationship and the impact of libraries.
Profile Image for Julie.
1,076 reviews
August 31, 2022
All the feels - a beautiful blend of history, poetry, family drama, loss, learning, and love. Through the character of Langston, author Lesa Cline-Ransome shows the history of the Great Migration and its impact on southern African American families in the twentieth century. Langston and his father leave Alabama and the sadness of the loss of Langston's mother for a better life in Chicago, but still have to leave Langston's grandmother, aunt, and cousins behind. We see the greater opportunity in the north through the character of their neighbor, Miss Fulton, a teacher who was encouraged to get her degree by her aunt, also a teacher. Even though her parents were from the south, we learn that she has a sister who is also a teacher and another who is at college. These kinds of chances would not have been available to Black families like Langston's in Alabama, and it is clear that Miss Fulton will work to make them available to future generations: "Of course, the school likes me to teach all the classic poets - Emerson, Frost, Dickinson - but I always include some of our own as well. Paul Laurence Dunbar for one" (69). I love how the librarians in the book, along with Miss Fulton, make opportunities for Black students to see themselves and their lives depicted in literature for the first time.
The other great story the author tells is about how libraries and books genuinely change lives and, again, provide opportunities; again, this is something that was not available to Langston in the segregated American south. The author does not avoid the racist history of libraries; Langston's daddy tells him that it is "a building for white folks, and that meant I couldn't go in" (19). But he learns that the Chicago library is open to all. His discovery of the library and love for being there is something that will resonate with any passionate reader: "It's better to read in the library. Sitting at my favorite table by the window reading and listening to the sound of other folks turning pages makes me feel like I'm in a house full of company I don't have to talk to" (56). As a librarian, this passage reminded me of the "silent book clubs" I've read about in other library systems, where readers come together to read their individual books in a shared quiet space; the library provides a sense of community, acceptance, and belonging like no other.
The book is also a lovely little meditation on fathers and sons, through how Langston and his once-distant father grow closer and learn to understand one another a little better; it's also a look at school bullying and how we can find friends through unlikely situations when we take the time to find out a bit more about them. In this case, Clem, who Langston thought to be a bully, turns out to have a lot more in common with him than he realized. He visits the library, too, and even puts words to Langston's musings about poetry: "So the poetry you read is a way of putting all the things you feel inside on the outside" (99). What a perfect description!
The author researched the history of the Chicago Public Library and enhanced her story with all kinds of little details that ring true for readers. I appreciate the background she shared about Black culture in Chicago, post-WWII, and the Chicago Black Renaissance of artists, poets, writers, and musicians, which I knew very little about compared with the earlier Harlem Renaissance.
Read it, if you haven't already. A sad but beautiful story with characters that resonate - especially young Langston.
Profile Image for Joy Kirr.
988 reviews128 followers
July 20, 2021
I. Loved. This. (Short) Book. I can’t really tell why. I just loved the way young Langston wrote his sorrow, missing his mom and Alabama, wrote his struggle with the Chicago bullies, and wrote a teeny bit of his father’s story, as well. Short and very sweet, I look forward to the companion books. Time: 1946
Profile Image for Alicia Farmer.
564 reviews
December 19, 2022
Who doesn't love a book about a displaced child finding a home and acceptance in the library? This book led me to read up on the George Cleveland Hall library in Chicago, which was its own fun excursion.
Profile Image for Sandra.
277 reviews26 followers
June 27, 2019
This young reader historical fiction gem is set in Chicago during the Great Migration. Middle schooler Langston moves from Alabama to Chicago with his father, but he misses everything about Alabama. In Chicago, Langston must adjust to his new life while coping with the loss of his mom; learn about new opportunities such as being able to use the public library while getting bullied at school for being a “country boy”; and nurture his love for reading while finding out the truth behind his namesake. Themes of loss/grief, bullying, friendship, love for reading/poetry, racism, and survival make this story a touching read for upper elementary to middle school readers. Recommend to Langston Hughes and poetry fans, as well as learners about the Great Migration and African American literary writers.
Profile Image for Tuck.
2,223 reviews207 followers
September 27, 2019
story of junior high aged boy and his dad moving from Alabama to Chicago in 1946. mom passed away n dad needed to get away from rural Alabama and memories. boy discovers the library and books help him through the transition. my 8 year old gave it 4 stars. authors husband is ransome, he did cover art.
Profile Image for Gina Johnson.
474 reviews10 followers
April 6, 2022
I really enjoyed this! It’s a short, easy, middle grade novel about a boy discovering Langston Hughes’ poetry. AmblesideOnline year 6 people, I’m going to have my students read this the term he’s their poet. My daughter isn’t loving his poetry (although she doesn’t hate it either…) and I think this might make it a bit more relatable for her.
Profile Image for MaryAnne.
185 reviews15 followers
January 16, 2019
A beautiful story.

In 1946, Langston and his Dad move to Chicago from rural Alabama. His mother recently passed away and he is feeling a little lost in this big city. The city is so noisy and everyone calls him “Country boy” because he has an accent and wears overalls. He hasn’t made any friends and is experiencing bullying from a few kids in his class. In order to avoid the bullies, one day he goes a different way home from school and discovers the George Cleveland Hall Branch Library.

The library becomes his home away from home. He never imagined such a wonderful place and they allow colored folks! The first book he finds is by Langston Hughes and he wonders if he was named after him? He finds he has a lot in common with Mr. Hughes and soon discovers more poetry and writings by other Negro writers.

Langston’s journey to discovering himself is beautifully written by Ms. Cline-Ransome. This is truly a lovely book. It’s a love story for libraries and writers. And, it’s a story about the Great Migration when many blacks from the South migrated to the North after World War II.
Profile Image for Stephanie Bange.
1,536 reviews11 followers
December 2, 2018
This is a story of a boy finding out who he is after the death of his mother.

Langston feels he was ripped from his home in Alabama and forced to move to Chicago with his father for a "fresh start". He feels alien in the city, it is so different from his country home in the South. While trying to avoid a bully at school, he stumbles upon the public library. Once Langston discovers the beauty of poetry by his namesake, Langston Hughes, and other Black poets, he is able to turn his world around.

In a word, beautiful! Cline-Ransome's story set in 1940's Chicago is charming and on-target. Langston is moody and broody, just as tween boys are. He is two steps from manhood, yet two steps from still being a young boy. Growing up as a "mama's boy", he never really knew his father until they moved to Chicago. Langston grows immensely in both his sensibilities and self-confidence as the story unfolds. The conversations between Langston and others is just right. I found that my heart went out to this young man who was just trying to understand the world around him, but felt that it was against him. Once he started taking risks and extending himself, his world grew.

Highly Recommended for grades 4-8.

Profile Image for Beth Anne.
1,164 reviews89 followers
January 28, 2021
Re-read for teaching lit class. I just love this book so much. I really should pick up the rest of the series.

What a fantastic audiobook! We inhaled this story in just two days (it is short) and the kids were completely enthralled. Eleven year old Langston and his father moved to Chicago in 1946, part of the Great Migration looking for a better life for blacks in America post-WWII. They left their life as sharecroppers after the death of Langston's mother, but life in Chicago has challenges, as well as hidden treasures. Lanston discovers the library is for residents, not just whites, and dives deep into the world of poetry. In doing so he learns about his mother's love of poetry, gets to know his father better, and makes a few unlikely friends. This was a brilliant historical fiction novel, beautifully written, and I'm so glad we found it.
Profile Image for Susan Dove Lempke.
144 reviews11 followers
April 10, 2018
A historical fiction novel set in the Bronzeville neighborhood of Chicago right after World War II. The main character (whose name we don't learn until part way through) deeply misses his late mother, and misses their Alabama home. Bullied at school and left alone a lot in the very bleak apartment he shares with his silent father, he finds comfort in the neighborhood library. For a librarian, this was a treat to read, and Cline-Ransome evokes the time, the place, and the poignant characters beautifully.
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