[review] H is for Harlem by Dinah Johnson and April Harrison

#63 in an ongoing series of posts celebrating the alphabet.

If I had to choose one word to describe H is for Harlem, it would be “alive” – deliciously, soulfully, jubilantly alive. 

Generous in its carefully curated offerings and beautiful in its execution, this sumptuous abecedarian celebration of Harlem’s rich cultural history pulsates with energy, inviting readers to explore, discover, and marvel.

As author Dinah Johnson writes, “Harlem is a place like no other in the world . . . It is truly multicultural. But for a long time people have called Harlem the mecca of Black America, a place where African American culture is living and breathing, shining and indestructible.”

From “A is for Apollo Theater” to “Z is for Zora Neale Hurston,” we learn about Harlem’s unique treasures – seminal people, places, organizations, communities – making up the fascinating tapestry of this storied New York neighborhood. 

Johnson describes the well known (Harlem Globetrotters, Malcolm X, Harriet Tubman) as well as the less familiar (Mabel Fairbanks, Impact Farm, Opportunity Magazine), with just enough facts to whet the appetite, encouraging further research.

Since I especially love music, I was happy to read about the iconic Apollo Theater, the Boys Choir of Harlem, and the National Jazz Museum in Harlem. It was exciting seeing some of my faves mentioned: Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Jackson 5, Jennifer Hudson, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Wynton Marsalis. Just imagine the convergence of such genius and talent, the creative cross-fertilization among all the arts that continues today!

Johnson also tucked in some new-to-me nuggets along the way. Are you familiar with Cicely Tyson’s role in inspiring the creation of the Dance Theatre of Harlem? Though I was familiar with Zora Neale Hurston’s novels, I didn’t know she was also an anthropologist, or that she is credited by some to have been the first African American to debut a Broadway play.

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(the buzz about) A is for Bee by Ellen Heck

#62 in an ongoing series of posts celebrating the alphabet.

Just when you think you know the alphabet, along comes a fun and inventive animal abecedarian that shows you what you’ve been missing. 

Set aside the predictable ‘A is for Alligator’ and ‘Z is for Zebra’ books. In Ellen Heck’s A is for Bee: An Alphabet Book in Translation (Levine Querido, 2022), we learn what 26 familiar animals are called around the world.

We speak to each other in many languages, and in some of them . . . A is for Bee.

Although the word bee begins with ‘B’ in English, in some other languages, it actually begins with ‘A’: Aamoo (Ojibwe), Abelha (Portuguese).

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[tasty review + giveaway] Things We Eat by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong

#61 in an ongoing series of posts celebrating the alphabet

Hmmm, looks like there’s only one chocolate chip cookie left. Go ahead and take it – I won’t tell. 

While you’re busy nibbling, I’ll tell you all about the brand new ABC food anthology edited by our favorite poetry goddesses, Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong. 🙂

For Things We Eat (Pomelo Books, 2022), Sylvia and Janet donned their perky chef hats to cook up a tempting smorgasbord of 27 delectable poems just right for eager munchkins ages 3-7. 

They invited 25 hungry poets –  both new and established – to write ekphrastic poems based on appetizing color photos of kids preparing, growing, shopping for, eating and sharing a variety of diverse foods. Janet herself penned two yummy poems for the collection: “Kimchi” and “Alphabet Menu.” 

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All Rise for the Letter A!

#60 in an ongoing series of posts celebrating the alphabet

Any poet who so jubilantly sings the praises of the letter A is a poet after my own heart. 

from Alphabet by Paul Thurlby (2011)
by Darren Sardelli

The letter A is awesome!
It's arguably the best.
Without an A, you could not get
an A+ on a test.
You’d never see an acrobat
or eat an apple pie.
You couldn’t be an astronaut
or kiss your aunt goodbye.
An antelope would not exist.
An ape would be unknown.
You’d never hear a person
say “Afraid” or “All Alone”.
The A’s in avocado
would completely disappear
and certain words would be forgot
like “ankle”, “arm”, and “ear”.

Without the A, you couldn’t aim
an arrow in the air.
You wouldn’t ask for apricots
or almonds at a fair.
Aruba and Australia
would be missing from a map.
You’d never use an ATM,
an apron, or an app.
The arctic fox and aardvark
would be absent from the zoo,
and vowels, as you know them,
would be E, I, O, and U.
There wouldn’t be an A chord
on the instruments you play.
Let’s appreciate, admire,
and applaud the letter A!

~ Reprinted from Blast Off! (The School Magazine, 2016), posted by permission of the author.

How fun to consider some of the marvelous things we’d miss in the absence of A!

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[tasty review] ABC El Salvador by Holly Ayala and Elizabeth Gómez

#59 in an ongoing series of posts celebrating the alphabet

Hola, ¿cómo estás?

At this very moment I’m enjoying a piece of Quesadilla Salvadoreña along with a nice warm cup of atol de elote. Want some? 🙂

Now we’re all set to travel around San Salvador and the town of Witzapan with young Xiomara (pronounced see-oh-MAR-ah). Friendly and oh so proud of her home country, Xiomara introduces us to her family, shows us places she likes to visit, and shares interesting tidbits of history, geography and culture in both Spanish and English.

Young readers will enjoy ABC El Salvador whether they are familiar with El Salvador or not. Since kids’ books on the subject are few and far between, Salvadoran children all over the world will be happy to see themselves represented in this book. 

Those unfamiliar with this unique place — the smallest country in continental America — will have fun learning the Spanish alphabet through Xiomara’s personal perspective.

She’s a girl after my own heart, since she begins with Atol, a sweet corn beverage she likes nice and warm (bien calientito!).

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