There Was a Party For Langston

Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy. Oct. 2023. 56p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781534439443.
PreS-Gr 3–Reynolds and the Pumphreys sharpen all their tools for this one, throwing word art like clouds into the sky and regaling readers with scene after scene of the finest guests—Amiri Baraka, Maya Angelou, and so many more—who have come to Harlem’s Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture for one reason: to celebrate the opening of the Langston Hughes Auditorium in February 1991. And this is some party. There is music. There is food. There is the feeling that everyone who is anyone is on board. Reynolds explains in an author’s note that he was inspired to dig a little deeper by a black-and-white photograph of Baraka and Angelou doing the boogie at the event. He calls Hughes the king of letters, “whose ABC’s became drums,/ bumping jumping thumping/ like a heart the size of the whole wide world” and the pictures bump jump thump along with the text. Joy like jazz falls off the page into readers’ laps with every spread flashing back through time to Hughes’s Ohio childhood, Harlem, America, the world, interiors, exteriors, the party, the people, the famous Black faces, and more. “And all the books on the shelves were listening and looking at all the people, shimmying, full of dazzle./ Don’t nobody dance like a word maker./ And all the best word makers were there.” This book is an absolute textual and pictorial glory of people, places, word-making, song-singing, storytelling, history-making moments, and images that are unforgettable.
VERDICT A beguiling, bedazzling collaboration that will send children to the shelves to learn more about all the names within, especially Hughes.

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