WE TROUBLED THE WATERS Poems by Ntozake Shange, Paintings by Rod Brown (Amistad An Imprint of HarperCollins 2009, $16.99) arrived yesterday and my mind is still mulling over the message found here.
The first image to hit the reader comes from the title page. Minimum amount of text giving pertinent data about the book at the top of the two page spread. One’s eyes instead are drawn immediately to the body of a black man floating the stream on the bottom half of the page. No words other than the book data. What a shocking sight. It helps set up the reader for what is to come.
The poems in the following pages recount the struggle of the black man from Jim Crow Days to today. Each page speaks of the horrible actions as white men have tried to keep the blacks in America subjugated. One can literally taste the hatred; feel the hatred and I believe even smell the anger and hatred blacks faced in their fight for freedom.
I found the poetry astonishing. Ms Shange, poet, playwright and children’s author expresses in a few well-chosen words the emotions and innermost feeling of the paintings for each happening. Yet in those few words the reader/listener is awash with emotions.
I do not know which came first, and it makes no nevermind. The marriage of artistic talents here MUST be shared with school children around the world.
This amazing book comes to us in picturebook form. And that is appropriate and beautiful–truly beautiful. Unfortunately this book will be placed in an elementary library. I do not believe many young children will truly appreciate or learn any message from this book. This book needs a place in a Middle School or High School Library where students can discuss the impact of the words and pictures on themselves and others around them.
This is THE Book to examine and study during Black History Month. From my limited vantage point, it seems young black students today lack any real deep understanding of what their parents and forefathers endured to bring them the style of life and living they now enjoy. This book with all of its brutality so clearly depicted in words and paint would educate todays’ youth.
Let the questions come. Let the discussion begin. Maybe somewhere a youth will find an answer he/she can share with the troubled world.