I, Too, Am America
I, Too, Am America

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Annotation: Collier's illustrations transform this classic Langston Hughes poem into a visual homage to Pullman porters, who performed once of the first jobs that gave African-American men dignity, a steady wage, and a ladder into the middle class.
Genre: Poetry
Catalog Number: #70745
Format: Perma-Bound Edition from Publisher's Hardcover
All Formats: Search
Copyright Date: 1994
Edition Date: 2012
Illustrator: Collier, Bryan,
Pages: 40
Availability: Available
ISBN: Publisher: 1-442-42008-1 Perma-Bound: 0-605-71126-7
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-1-442-42008-3 Perma-Bound: 978-0-605-71126-6
Dewey: 811
LCCN: 2011002879
Dimensions: 29 cm.
Language: English
Reviews:
ALA Booklist
A celebration of Pullman porters is the focus of this new picture-book edition of Langston Hughes' classic poem. The collage spreads, blending oil paintings and cut paper, begin with an image of a speeding train before moving on to large portraits of African American porters serving white passengers aboard a luxury train. When the passengers leave, the porters gather left-behind items wspapers, blues and jazz albums d toss them from the train. Carried by the wind, the words and music fall into the hands of African Americans across the country. The final, contemporary pages show young black people celebrating their place in America and dreaming of a bright future. Collier's long final note explains his interpretation of the poem, and with adult help, kids can look closely at what the pictures show about the porters then and now as well as Collier's visual themes, including the recurring use of stars and stripes, which culminate in a beautiful, final close-up of a boy with his mother staring through a train window today at the starry city sky.
Horn Book
Steeped in flag symbolism, Collier's mixed-media illustrations show Hughes's "darker brother" as a Pullman porter who collects "items left behind" and distributes passengers' newspapers, record albums, etc., to other African Americans along the train's route. As he explains in a lengthy artist's note, Collier provides a "visual story line" based on the "true actions of Pullman porters" for this iconic poem.
Kirkus Reviews
A brilliant visual association between Hughes' poem and the history of the Pullman porters illuminates a chapter of American history but gets bogged down in backmatter explaining its metaphors. The pagination sets a logical, steady pace for a loose visual narrative, opening with a train speeding past foregrounded cotton fields. The next spread is dominated by a portrait of a Pullman porter, with an American flag that the backmatter describes as a "light veil" over his face, and a glimpse of workers in the kitchen car. From there, the porters work with dignity "and grow strong" from scene to scene, until a wordless spread depicts a porter standing on the deck of the caboose and letting papers drift from his hands as though he were sending out a message of hard work, dignity and pride. Subsequent spreads, with recurring visual references to the American flag, feature scenes of people outside, in cities and on trains. Backmatter works hard (with far too much hand-holding) to explain what all of these flag references are supposed to convey. In all, it's a beautiful visual interpretation of Hughes's poem that fails to trust readers enough to let them come to their own understanding of the interplay of art and text. Enjoy the poem and the illustrations; skip the instructions. (Picture book. 8 & up)
School Library Journal
K-Gr 5 Hughes's poem of burgeoning pride in one's African American identity, written at the height of the Harlem Renaissance in 1925, is interpreted anew in this striking picture book. Collier has visualized the message of the sparely written poem, barely 60 words in length, through the lens of a Pullman porter. "I, too, sing America" proclaims the opening spread that depicts a passenger rail car whizzing by; then, "I am the darker brother" shows an African American young man in the porter's uniform gazing squarely at readers through a faint, translucent overlay of the American flag, a recurring motif. As the porter cleans up the club car and examines the detritusnewspapers, magazines, blues, and jazz albums left by the train's well-heeled passengershe impulsively flings it all from the caboose, scattering this knowledge to those who will willingly learn from it. Wafting through time and space, these items fall into the hands of a young female field worker in the long-ago South as well as residents in a contemporary northern urban landscape. The poem's powerful conclusion&12;"I, too, am America"&12;depicts a young boy on the subway with his mother, peering out the window through a readily visible flag toward his unknown but hopeful future. Collier's signature mixed-media collages create bold, textured images that give tangible expression to the poet's potent words. A memorable and multilayered volume for all libraries.&12; Kathleen Finn, St. Francis Xavier School, Winooski, VT
Reading Level: 1.0
Interest Level: K-3
Lexile: AD500L

Winner of the Coretta Scott King illustrator award, I, Too, Am America blends the poetic wisdom of Langston Hughes with visionary illustrations from Bryan Collier in this inspirational picture book that carries the promise of equality.


I, too, sing America.
I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.


Langston Hughes was a courageous voice of his time, and his authentic call for equality still rings true today. Beautiful paintings from Barack Obama illustrator Bryan Collier accompany and reinvent the celebrated lines of the poem "I, Too," creating a breathtaking reminder to all Americans that we are united despite our differences.

This picture book of Langston Hughes’s celebrated poem, "I, Too, Am America," is also a Common Core Text Exemplar for Poetry.


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