Ellington was not a street

Author Shange, Ntozake.
Language English
Weston Woods/Scholastic $60.00., 2005

Subjects :

  • African American girls
  • African American civil rights workers
  • Juvenile poetry
  • American poetry
  • African Americans
  • African American artists
  • Poetry
  • Children's poetry, American

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Author Illustrator(s) :

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Best Books :

  • Best Children's Books of the Year, 2004 Bank Street College of Education
  • Capitol Choices, 2005 The Capitol Choices Committee
  • Children's Catalog, Eighteenth Edition, Supplement, 2004 H.W. Wilson
  • Children's Catalog, Nineteenth Edition, 2006 H.W. Wilson
  • Children's Literature Choice List, 2005 Children's Literature
  • Choices, 2005 Cooperative ChildrenÂ’s Book Center
  • Kirkus Book Review Stars, November 15, 2003
  • Notable Children's Books in the English Language Arts, 2005 NCTE Children's Literature Assembly
  • Notable Children's Books, 2005 American Library Association ALSC
  • Publishers Weekly Book Review Stars, December 22, 2003 Cahners
  • School Library Journal Book Review Stars, January 2004 Cahners

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Awards, Honors & Prizes :

  • Coretta Scott King Book Award, 2005 Winner United States
  • NAACP Image Award, 2005 Nominee United States
  • Once Upon a World Children's Book Award, 2005 Winner United States
  • Parents' Choice Award, 2004 Gold United States

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Curriculum Tools :

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Reading Measurement Programs:

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (New York:) 2004.

Lexile, MetaMetrics, Inc.

Accelerated Reader Points

Reading Counts-Scholastic
Interest Level 6-8
Reading Level 3
Accelerated Reader Points 1

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Reviews :

Ilene Cooper (Booklist, Feb. 15, 2004 (Vol. 100, No. 12))
The text of this picture book for older children is a paean to Shange's family home and the exciting men who gathered there, everyone from W. E. B. DuBois and Paul Robeson to Dizzy Gillispie and Duke Ellington. Taken from Shange's 1983 poem "Mood Indigo," the words here recall, from a child's perspective, what it was like to listen "in the company of men / politics as necessary as collards / music even in our dreams." The evocative words are more than matched by Nelson's thrilling, oversize oil paintings, a cross between family photo album and stage set, featuring this group of extraordinary men interacting--playing cards, singing, discussing. The girl who is always watching them is, unfortunately, portrayed as very young, perhaps three or four, although she appears somewhat older on the beguiling jacket art. Preschoolers are not the audience for this, and despite the helpful notes that introduce the men mentioned in the poem, even older children will need further explanations (e.g., where are the famous women?). Depicting the narrator as a child closer in age to the target audience would have helped bridge the gap between a poem written for adults and a book for children. Still, with words and pictures that are so enticing, this will be embraced by many. Category: Books for Middle Readers--Nonfiction. 2004, Simon & Schuster, $15.95. Gr. 3-5.
(PUBLISHER: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (New York:), PUBLISHED: 2004.)

Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz (Children's Literature)
The text of Shange's emotion-packed free verse is spread, a line or two, across the tall double pages. It is rich with the memories of a Harlem childhood, warm with family love, and filled with encounters with men of vision "who changed the world," such as Paul Robeson, W.E.B.Dubois, "Dizzy" Gillespie, and Duke Ellington. All those mentioned appear at the end with small portraits and descriptions of who they were. Naturalistic oil paintings, almost like a family album of color photographs, record the details of rooms and the people in them; a posed group shot of 30 friendly people adds specific vitality to the text's more general memories. The final full-length portrait of Ellington is stunning in its elegant directness, illuminating the man's gentle spirituality. 2004 (orig. 1983), Simon & Schuister Books for Young Readers, $15.95. Ages 8 up.
(PUBLISHER: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (New York:), PUBLISHED: 2004.)

CCBC (Cooperative Children's Book Center Choices, 2005)
Ntozake Shange s 1983 poem Mood Indigo, which she wrote as a tribute to many of the Black American men who changed the world, is the text of a powerful picture book stunningly illustrated by Kadir Nelson. Shange s poem references Mood Indigo as the title of a song by Duke Ellington, who, along with musicians such as Dizzy Gillespie and Paul Robeson, move in and out of the home of the poem s narrator a young woman looking back on her childhood. Other visitors include W.E.B. DuBois, Virgil Honey Bear Akins and President Kwame Nkurmah of Ghana. The poem speaks to the cultural and social history of African Americans as well as continuing struggles: politics as necessary as collards, sonny til was not a boy , virgil akins was not the only fighter, our windows were not cement or steel. Nelson s full-page portraits of the men conversing and interacting with one another, watched by the young girl, provide an elegant visual narrative. Each painting is beautifully composed and balanced, full of vibrant, dignified individuals. Brief biographical information about each individual referenced in the text is provided on the final two pages in a book that is an enriching encounter with history, art, and poetry. CCBC categories: Poetry. 2004, Simon & Schuster, 32 pages, $15.95. Ages 6-18.
(PUBLISHER: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (New York:), PUBLISHED: 2004.)

Kirkus (Kirkus Reviews, November 15, 2003 (Vol. 71, No. 22))
Deeply colored paintings enrich this homage to African-American men who made history and influenced culture, including Duke Ellington, Paul Robeson, Dizzy Gillespie, and W.E.B. DuBois. Nelson's setting is a home, filled with the folks who made it happen, as observed by a small girl whose presence, greeting the guests or peeking around the corners, adds the child's point of view. The poetic text is spare, with only a few words on each spread, but they match the majesty of the scene. Children will need context to understand the brief lines, and happily, an author's note provides it. In bell hooks style, none of the lines or names are capitalized, nor do they have punctuation. Intended for children today who know these names as commemorative plaques on buildings or streets, the deceptively simple text reveals the feel of the Harlem Renaissance: "Politics as necessary as collards, music even in our dreams." A tribute to what these men did for African-Americans, indeed all Americans, is soulfully and succinctly stated: "Our doors opened like our daddy's arms, held us safe and loved." Exquisite. 2004, Simon & Schuster, $15.95. Category: Picture book. Ages 4 to 8. Starred Review. © 2003 Kirkus Reviews/VNU eMedia, Inc. All rights reserved.
(PUBLISHER: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (New York:), PUBLISHED: 2004.)

Publishers Weekly (Publishers Weekly)
At once personal and universal, Shange's poem, "Mood Indigo" (published in her 1983 poetry collection, A Daughter's Geography\n), serves as the narrative for this elegiac tribute to a select group of African-American men who made important contributions to 20th-century culture. Nelson (Big Jabe\n) ingeniously sets the events in the home of the narrator, depicted as a curious, winning girl in oil paintings that strongly evoke the period and mood as the renowned visitors start to gather in her convivial, well-appointed house. Presented without punctuation, apostrophes or capital letters, the affectingly wistful verse flows freely and lyrically: "it hasnt always been this way/ ellington was not a street," it begins. Paul Robeson hangs his hat on a coat rack, emphasizing the man's larger-than-life presence and tall, athletic stature ("robeson no mere memory") while "du bois walked up my father's stairs" with the aid of a cane. Nelson conveys the learned man's advancing years but, once seated on the couch, Du Bois exudes wisdom and dignity. The volume culminates in a group portrait of Duke Ellington, percussionist Ray Barretto, jazz great Dizzy Gillespie and Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, former president of Ghana, among others; this collective image drives home the point that these legendary figures were contemporaries who defined an era. Brief concluding biographical sketches tell readers more about these engaging personalities and may well lead to further reading. This is truly a book for all ages, lovely to behold and designed to be revisited. All ages. (Jan.)\n"
(PUBLISHER: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (New York:), PUBLISHED: 2004.)

Elizabeth Bush (The Bulletin of the Center for Children s Books, March 2004 (Vol. 57, No. 7))
Shange s poem "Mood Indigo," an adult recollection of a childhood spent "in the company of men/ who changed the world," receives a literal treatment through illustrations that follow a demure little girl who nonchalantly interacts with the mid-twentieth-century African-American luminaries who visit her father. As a freestanding poem addressed to adults, the text is charged with sadness over the passage of a long generation of achievers from activity into memory, and with barely suppressed anger over the shuttering of segments of the African-American community though fear and demographic change. Once "Ellington was not a street," but a vibrant artist, and Shange/narrator remembers when "our windows were not cement or steel/ our doors opened like our daddy s arms/ held us safe & loved." Snaring and caging intense emotions within a picture-book framework brings the poem to young children s attention, but the result is problematic: though the pictures are luminous, they limit and constrict the poem, and the featured little girl is too young to capture the interest of those readers old enough to begin to grasp the text s implications. If the audience does not (or, more likely, cannot) share Shange s grasp of community evolution, they must be forgiven for simply puzzling over who this little girl is and how her father came to preside over so impressive a salon. Nelson s domestic scenes are, to be sure, carefully crafted. Opposite the title page, a young lady on a piano bench clutches an old LP; her pensive gaze follows the trajectory of the grand piano lid that bisects a painting of (presumably) Ellington s orchestra. A later scene of a house party, viewed looking in from streetside, packs an easy-moving, spirited crowd of affectionately caricatured guests into a tight space of precisely centered, bourgeois propriety. A spread of biographical notes introduces these A-list members, but without sufficient historical background, children may unfortunately regard this as little more than an illustrated list of names to know. Review Code: Ad -- Additional book of acceptable quality for collections needing more material in the area. (c) Copyright 2004, The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. 2004, Simon, 40p, $15.95. Grades 3-6.
(PUBLISHER: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (New York:), PUBLISHED: 2004.)

Ann Ritchie (Audiofile, February/March 2006)
It hasn't always been this way/ Ellington was not a street." To the backdrop of Ellington's "Mood Indigo," with all the static of a record on a record player, the listener is treated to the poetry of visitors through the author's house. Rashad's voice is gentle, yet firm. Her drawn-out pauses heighten the mysteriousness and import of each guest. Now, open the book and listen along while Kadir Nelson's majestic artwork expands the experience. An additional expansion comes when reading the end notes which, unfortunately, are not included in the recording. A.R. (c) AudioFile 2006, Portland, Maine Unabridged. 2005, Weston Woods, One cassettes, 5 min., Book & Recording, $24.95, One CDs, $29.95. Ages 4 to 6.
(PUBLISHER: Weston Woods One cassettes 5 min. Book & Recording $24.95 One CDs $29.95., PUBLISHED: 2005)

Sharon Salluzzo (Children's Literature)
With his music playing in the background, this video begins with a close-up of an old RCA Victor LP recording of Mood Indigo by Duke Ellington and his famous orchestra. Shange s award winning ode to 20th century African-American men who changed the world is narrated by Phylicia Rashad. The second half of the video takes a closer look at the lives of some of these men. The iconography draws upon Nelson s illustrations for the book of the same name published in 2004. Various angles and zooming in and out provide interest and focus for the viewer. As each individual is introduced in the second half, the viewer is shown Nelson s drawing of the person and then actual photographs are presented. For the musicians, excerpts of their music are played. The warm and proud feelings expressed by the little girl in the book are carried through in the video and make this appropriate for younger audiences. Older viewers will find the additional biographical information on Duke Ellington, Paul Robeson, W.E.B. duBois, Virgil Akins, Sonny Til, and others to be quite interesting. Total video time is 12 minutes. Weston Woods provides suggested activities for this closed-captioned, public performance videocassette. Also available as a DVD. 2005, Weston Woods/Scholastic, $60.00. Ages 5 to 12.
(PUBLISHER: Weston Woods/Scholastic $60.00., PUBLISHED: 2005)

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Publication Details:

  Publisher ISBN Notes
Weston Woods/Scholastic $60.00., 2005

Media Type:

Weston Woods One cassettes 5 min. Book & Recording $24.95 One CDs $29.95., 2005

Media Type:

New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2004

Media Type: Language Material
1 v. (unpaged):
PS3569.H3324 (811/.54)

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