Lullaby (For a Black Mother)

Langston Hughes, Author, Sean Qualls, Illustrator
Langston Hughes, illus. by Sean Qualls. Harcourt, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-547-36265-6
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“My little dark baby,/ My little earth-thing,/ My little love-one,/ What shall I sing/ For your lullaby?” Hughes wrote this poem more than 80 years ago, but its playful language and informal lines sound startlingly fresh and modern. The poem’s images of night and innocence are well suited for a picture book, too. Qualls (Freedom Song) keeps his artwork simple, painting a series of spreads that hew closely to the words. He renders “A necklace of stars” with a bird flying around mother and child, leaving a trail of stars around the woman’s neck. “Moon,/ Moon,/ Great diamond moon” shows the white-gowned, long-haired mother floating among the clouds, holding her son up so he can see the shining disk in a dark, gray-blue sky. Swirls of grass and celestial orbs embellish daytime scenes, while the lights of tall buildings join with the stars above to form a backdrop for several nocturnal spreads. An afterword describes Hughes’s career. A quiet but welcome introduction to the writer’s work for the very young. Ages 3–8. Illustrator’s agent: Rebecca Sherman, Writers. House. (Mar.)
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