Andrea's Reviews > Harlem Summer

Harlem Summer by Walter Dean Myers
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's review
Sep 26, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: multicultural, juv-nonfiction, poetry
Read in September, 2011

Appropriate Age: 7th grade and above

This poem takes the reader through a soulful journey about life in Harlem. The connective theme is song and voice, and how these people have taken their song from Africa, and changed/added to it through slavery and finally in their life in Harlem.

Walter Dean Myers grew up in Harlem, which gives him credibility to write in this genre. The cultural details are neatly integrated into the text and pictures through the readers exploration of Harlem. Although the overall tone of the text is not traditional to this culture, specific words and relations are established throughout the use of authentic language. The poetic nature of the text took over for the need to write in the dialect traditionally prevalent in Harlem.

The pictures in this book were the first thing that really caught my attention. Each piece of the picture is segmented- almost like it was cut and paste- into a beautiful mural. The contrast of colors really helps to accentuate the writer's motive on each page. After I read the book, I went back and looked at just the illustrations, which were created from a combination of ink, gouache, and collage, and was able to "read" the story just by viewing the artwork. It takes an incredibly strong illustrator to portray the meaning and passion without the text.

The text in this book was incredible as well. It actually took me a second time through the book to really understand the meaning of the book. It is written in poetry form, which has always been more difficult for me to analyze. However, I found that reading the text aloud (just as if I were reading to my students) really helped with my own comprehension. This book took me thorough the different aspects of a black adolescent's daily life in Harlem. It really made me think about how this was so different from my life growing up. For example, young children would routinely play in a fire hydrant on the street for entertainment, whereas I would have most likely been found in the park district swimming pool with my family and maybe a friend. The text also displayed the importance of religion in one's life, and how being bold and loud in your practice was expected. In my religious experiences, we were taught about religion in the form of lessons or Sunday school. We weren't included in the mass practices of the adults. The aspects of community demonstrated in this book really allow the reader to juxtapose this life to their own, which would make this a great read-aloud book for older students. I am always looking for "picture books" to read to my students. I really believe there is never a student who is too old to have a book read aloud. I typically read aloud novels to aide in understanding, but to have a book with such meaningful and strong pictures is amazing!

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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Jennifer (new) - added it

Jennifer This book really seems like a great way to introduce how other cultures are different, but special in their own ways. It could be especially helpful to introduce diversity to students that are not naturally exposed to it. I love how it even made you compare your life to the character in the book!

message 2: by Ginta (new)

Ginta Harrigan I like this book too. I like the main character, Mark. The book begins with Mark wanting to become a great saxophone player but his dream is circumvented when he takes a wrong path.

I like that the writer, Walter Dean Myers, incorporates real people into the story, e.g. W.E.B. DuBois, Langston Hughes, and Dutch Schultz. The conversations between Mark and Langston Hughes are priceless.

I agree with your assessment of the illustrations in the book. You stated that each piece of the picture is segmented like it was cut and pasted into a mural. That is such a great observation and so true.

I think Mark is a character that will appeal to most teens. Teens are on a perpetual quest to find their place in the world just as Mark had to do.

“Harlem Summer” is a great read.

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