My People
My People

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Annotation: The inspirational words of Hughes' poem are brought to life through a collection of sepia-colored photographs that capture the diverse features, hearts, and souls of its subjects.
Genre: Poetry
Catalog Number: #37013
Format: Perma-Bound Edition from Publisher's Hardcover
All Formats: Search
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition Date: 2009
Illustrator: Smith, Charles R.,
Pages: 40
Availability: Available
ISBN: Publisher: 1-416-93540-1 Perma-Bound: 0-605-25362-5
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-1-416-93540-7 Perma-Bound: 978-0-605-25362-9
Dewey: 811
LCCN: 2008025604
Dimensions: 24 x 26 cm.
Language: English
ALA Booklist
Some 86 years after its original publication, Langston Hughes' poem "My People" finds celebratory interpretation in Charles R. Smith Jr.'s elegant sepia photography. Echoing the graceful simplicity of Hughes' verses, Smith's pictures capture African American faces of every size, shape, age, and hue, their countenances shining out from fields of glossy black. The expressions are as varied and captivating as the subjects, from crying babies to radiant children and adults. The pages outnumber the words, 40 to 33, allowing the text, printed in gold, to sweep across the darkness with the titular refrain. In an endnote, Smith shares the questions he asked himself as he began his photographic interpretation, noting Hughes' intent "to celebrate the pride he had for his black brothers and sisters." In the aspects that he has captured, and their artful arrangement across the page, he does just that.
Horn Book
Reflecting Hughes's powerful words, Smith's sepia-tone photographs depict African Americans across generations. Aged, toil-worn hands represent the past, a mother with child holds onto the present, and hopeful youths look ahead into the future. Text and visuals seamlessly acclaim: "Beautiful, also, are the souls of my people." Poetry for all ages and peoples.
Kirkus Reviews
Hughes first published "My People" in 1923. Bold photographs that joyfully celebrate the diversity of African-American culture bring this simple text to life once again. Faces of various skin tones and ages, and both genders, explode from the black background of each page, all reproduced in faintly antiqued sepia tones that both befit the Jazz Age origins of the poem and give glorious depth to the faces depicted. The image that illustrates "The stars are beautiful" is of hair ornaments in deep, rich, black hair; light-bathed faces look up into an implied "sun." Smith's eye for detail and his extraordinary photographs eloquently express the pride and love the poet felt for his people, capturing equally the curiosity and excitement of youth and the experience and wisdom of elders. The simple yet brilliant photographs fully occupy the page; filmstrip-like thumbnails at the edges provide a visual rhythm. All together, they are the perfect accompaniment to the classic poem and create a complex work of art that any age can relish. (photographer's note) (Picture book. 2-10)
School Library Journal Starred Review
K Up Smith's knack for pairing poetry and photography is well documented in books such as Hoop Queens (Candlewick, 2003) and Rudyard Kipling's If (S & S, 2006). Here, his artful images engage in a lyrical and lively dance with Langston Hughes's brief ode to black beauty. Dramatic sepia portraits of African Americansranging from a cherubic, chubby-cheeked toddler to a graying elder whose face is etched with lines-are bathed in shadows, which melt into black backgrounds. The 33 words are printed in an elegant font in varying sizes as emphasis dictates. In order to maximize the effect of the page turn and allow time for meaning to be absorbed, the short phrases and their respective visual narratives often spill over more than a spread. The conclusion offers a montage of faces created with varying exposures, a decision that provides a light-filled aura and the irregularities that suggest historical prints. A note from Smith describes his approach to the 1923 poem. This celebration of the particular and universal will draw a wide audience: storytime participants; students of poetry, photography, and cultural studies; seniors; families. A timely and timeless offering. Wendy Lukehart, Washington DC Public Library
Starred Review for Publishers Weekly

Famous poems by Langston Hughes (1902–1967) inspire two exceptional picture books.

My PeopleLangston Hughes, photos by Charles R. Smith Jr. Atheneum/Seo, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-4169-3540-7

“At just thirty-three words total, [this] poem is a study in simplicity,” writes Smith (Rimshots; If); in its visual simplicity, his picture-book presentation is a tour de force. Introducing the poem two or three words at a time, Smith pairs each phrase with a portrait of one or more African-Americans; printed in sepia, the faces of his subjects materialize on black pages. “The night,” reads the opening spread, across from an image of a man’s face, his eyes shut; “is beautiful,” continues the next spread, showing the same face, now with eyes open and a wide smile. The text, sized big to balance the portraits, shows up in hues that range from white to tan to brown-black, reflecting Smith’s reading that “the words celebrate black people of differing shades and ages.” An inventive design adds a short, shadowed row or column of small portraits to the edge of many spreads; these quietly reinforce the concept of “my people.” Whether of babies, children or adults, Smith’s faces emerge into the light, displaying the best that humanity has to offer—intelligence, wisdom, curiosity, love and joy. Ages 4–8. (Jan.)

Reading Level: 1.0
Interest Level: K-3

Langston Hughes's spare yet eloquent tribue to his people has been cherished for generations. Now, acclaimed photographer Charles R. Smith Jr. interprets this beloved poem in vivid sepia photographs that capture the glory, the beauty, and the soul of being a black American today.

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