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Hey Black Child
Cover of Hey Black Child
Hey Black Child
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Six-time Coretta Scott King Award winner and four-time Caldecott Honor recipient Bryan Collier brings this classic, inspirational poem to life, written by poet Useni Eugene Perkins

Hey black child,

Do you know who you are?

Who really are?

Do you know you can be

What you want to be

If you try to be

What you can be?

This lyrical, empowering poem celebrates black children and seeks to inspire all young people to dream big and achieve their goals.

Six-time Coretta Scott King Award winner and four-time Caldecott Honor recipient Bryan Collier brings this classic, inspirational poem to life, written by poet Useni Eugene Perkins

Hey black child,

Do you know who you are?

Who really are?

Do you know you can be

What you want to be

If you try to be

What you can be?

This lyrical, empowering poem celebrates black children and seeks to inspire all young people to dream big and achieve their goals.

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About the Author-
  • Useni Eugene Perkins is a distinguished poet, playwright, and youth worker. He is the author of Harvesting New Generations: The Positive Development of Black Youth; Home is a Dirty Street: The Social Oppression of Black Children; and Black Fairy and Other Plays. He currently lives in Chicago.
    Bryan Collier has illustrated more than twenty-five picture books, including the award-winning Trombone Shorty, Dave the Potter, and Knock Knock: My Father's Dream for Me, as well as City Shapes, and Fifty Cents and a Dream, and has received four Caldecott Honors and six Coretta Scott King Awards. He lives with his wife and children in Marlboro, New York.
Reviews-
  • School Library Journal

    September 1, 2017

    PreS-Gr 3-Collier's characteristic watercolor-and-collage masterpieces bring joy and gravity to Perkins's inspirational poem. With a compelling rhythm that begs for recitation, the verse (often misattributed to Countee Cullen) celebrates the power and potential of black children. The illustrations pair young black faces with visions of their successful futures as astronauts, artists, politicians, and more and feature some of the artist's favorite motifs, including soaring balloons and rays of light. The visuals also contribute historical heft to the lyrical affirmation, layering images from African civilizations, the civil rights movement, and Black Lives Matter into the spreads, connecting the book's triumphs to African Americans' roots and ongoing struggles against racism and oppression. The poem closes with a reminder of the importance of the contributions of black children and the adults they grow up to be: "Be what you can be/Learn what you must learn/Do what you can do/And tomorrow your nation/Will be what you want it to be." Author and illustrator notes ensure that dedicated readers can appreciate all the fine details in the text and visuals. VERDICT A rousing celebration and call to action, this book is a great choice for every library.-Robbin E. Friedman, Chappaqua Library, NY

    Copyright 2017 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    September 1, 2017
    A poem by a celebrated Chicago playwright and long beloved within the Black History Month tradition about the achievement, potential, and ancestral joy incubated within the black experience. Readers who Google "Hey Black Child" will come across bevies of joyous videos of children as young as 3, both solo and in chorus, reciting this poem to enthralled crowds of families and friends. First penned in 1975, it's often been attributed to such black literary greats as Countee Cullen and Maya Angelou (a phenomenon discussed in the author's note). Yet the real genius behind this poem is Perkins, a longtime committed poet, playwright, and social worker in Chicago. He writes: "I'm honored that my poem has been associated with these two gifted writers, but I'm glad the world can now learn about the poem's true roots." To accompany the poem, Caldecott honoree Collier brings the amazement with beautiful, brilliant, full-color illustrations. By showing present-day children, their future accomplishments, and the legacies that have enriched and will continue to enrich their lives, as he explains in his note, Collier achieves strong and layered images that make sitting with the rhythmic and repetitious words of Perkins' poetry a grand occasion. This book dazzles in every way and is bound to inspire so many more viral videos of black children speaking their abundant futures into existence. All black children need to know Perkins' prideful poem, possibly by heart, because it's really that doggone good. (Picture book. 3-10)

    COPYRIGHT(2017) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from September 25, 2017
    Perkins’s 1975 poem, originally written as song lyrics (and sometimes misattributed to Countee Cullen or Maya Angelou), features compact, rhythmic language that’s both avuncular and commandingly rhetorical (“Hey Black Child/ Do you know who you are/ Who you really are”). Collier (City Shapes) uses a combination of dense, burnished watercolors—the texture often mimics acrylics—and photo collage to imagine the possibilities open to empowered African-American children. Each stanza begins with a close, almost photorealistic portrait of a confident, happy child; subsequent pages show how the child’s passion, coupled with a proud sense of heritage, leads him or her to become someone who helps make “your nation/ what you want it to be.” A girl with eager, bespectacled eyes and a bright smile stands beside a telescope and knows she can become an astronaut; a boy inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement sees a future in politics. Perkins’s poem has always made for a stirring recitation; new and old fans will find that Collier’s images do full justice to it. Ages 4–8. Illustrator’s agent: Marcia Wernick, Wernick & Pratt.

  • AudioFile Magazine While listening to this picture book, one can envision a girl, standing with arms akimbo, bellowing the words to other children in her neighborhood. However, the choice of 5-year-old Pe'Tehn Raighn-Kem Jackson as narrator, while imaginative, does a disservice to the poem. Her young voice, though fitting, takes away from the importance and inspiration of the text. The inclusion of an author's note, read by the author himself, further enhances the disconnect between Jackson's narration and the significance of the poem. The transition from the soft notes of the opening music to Jackson's over-the-top hollering recitation is a jarring juxtaposition of audio opposites. A.L.S.M. � AudioFile 2017, Portland, Maine
  • Booklist

    September 15, 2017
    Preschool-G The well-known poem Hey Black Child has been attributed to Maya Angelou and Countee Cullen, but in her author's note, Perkins describes the evolution of the piece she first wrote for a children's musical in 1975. The work is an empowering invitation to young African American children to, in some cases literally, reach for the stars. Collier's bold, effective watercolor-and-collage artwork mingles history with today's hopes and accomplishments. Pieces of an African past are represented, as well as the civil rights movement, but the emphasis is on the children of today. Kids stare brightly at the reader or look ahead to the future as they dance ballet, win trophies, paint pictures, or see themselves as astronauts. The text reminds themand readersthat they are strong / I mean really strong, and that learning and doing will help them bring about a nation that will be what you want it to be. The punchy text and the invigorating art make this a wonderful choice for story hours or classroom discussion where children can voice their own dreams.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2017, American Library Association.)

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Hey Black Child
Useni Eugene Perkins
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