Into the Woods ) imagines "the moment when Langston Hughes came to believe in himself as a writer," according to his author's note. "Sun"/>

LANGSTON'S TRAIN RIDE

Robert Burleigh, Author, Leonard Jenkins, Illustrator , illus. by Leonard Jenkins. Scholastic/Orchard $16.95 (32p) ISBN 978-0-439-35239-0

Burleigh (Into the Woods ) imagines "the moment when Langston Hughes came to believe in himself as a writer," according to his author's note. "Sunday afternoon in Harlem, and 125th Street is alive, swarming with people. Everything I see speaks to me—to me!," begins the snappy first-person narrative. As Langston walks to a book signing party, the sound of his clicking heels reminds him of the clackety-clack of the train he was riding when he composed his famous "The Negro Speaks of Rivers." The narration offers a quite lengthy look into what Langston might have been thinking on that train trip, en route to visit his father in Mexico, reflecting (in page-long chunks) on his family and heritage. Burleigh posits that it was the sight of the Mississippi River through the window that inspired Hughes's poem. The use of flashback and the poem's symbolism (which requires a knowledge of history) may prove difficult for younger readers. Jenkins (Sunflower Island) does some of his best work in these sophisticated mixed-media illustrations. Soulful, realistic portraits of Langston close-up and in silhouette alternate with landscapes in the artist's signature powder blues, pinks and golds; his palette punctuates the dusky, darkly shadowed elements in each picture to a sometimes unsettling, always intriguing effect. Older readers will likely appreciate this meditation on what may have prompted Hughes's early poetry, and it may move others to reach out for their dreams. Ages 4-8. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 01/03/2005
Release date: 10/01/2004
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