Friday, February 22, 2013

Friday Poetry: Brick by Brick

by Charles R. Smith, Jr., illustrated by Floyd Cooper. HarperCollins, 2012 (F& G reader's proof) This lovely picture book (all I'm saying is Floyd Cooper, ladies and gentlemen...) tells the story of the building of the white house. In 1792 workers were needed to construct the White House. There weren't enough free labors so the government rented out the work of slaves from Virginia and Maryland. Owners were paid for the backbreaking, monumental work these men did for our country. Charles R. Smith, Jr. has created a poem that sings the praises of their contribution to our history. In the afterword he says,

"I chose to focus on the hands because all of the work was done at a time when machines didn't exist to do those same jobs. "Hand is also another name for a laborer or worker. Thus many slaves were needed  to turn a wooded forest into our country's most famous address."

Here are a few of my favorite stanzas from the very beginning and the end:

Under a hazy,
hot summer sun,
many hands work
together as one.

The president of a new country
needs a new home,
so man hands work
together as one.

(...)

Slave hands buld
and slave hands save
shillings to be free
and no longer a slave.

Slave hands count shillings
with worn fingertips
and purchase freedom
earned brick by brick.


The paintings are absolutely stunning, of course. I love the varried tones of black, browns and beige, as well as the evocative faces filled with passion and determination. If you haven't seen this book yet you need to get your hands and eyes on a copy!

Floyd Cooper

Charles R. Smith


Links:
Browse inside at the HarperCollins site to see some of this gorgeous picture book.

Charles R. Smith, Jr. book list page with activities, poetry, and more.

Review at Publisher's Weekly.

Review and more poetry excerpts at Carol's Corner.

Seven Impossible Things blog interview with Smith, including art spreads from the book.

Today's Friday Poetry Round up is hosted by Sheri at Sheri Doyle. Enjoy!

12 comments:

Linda at teacherdance said...

I just saw about this in the 10 for 10 non-fiction round-up, Andi. It looks beautiful, with a good story, too-will have to find it at the library!

Doraine Bennett said...

This looks like a wonderful book. Thanks for sharing.

jama said...

Sounds beautiful, Andi. Love the excerpts you shared!

Tara @ A Teaching Life said...

What a wonderful book - this would be something special to share with my students when we study the building of the White House. Thank you!

Liz Steinglass said...

Wow. I will read this with my son ASAP.

maclibrary said...

Thanks for sharing such a great book.

Author Amok said...

Hi, Andi. I read about this story in the newspaper or heard about it on TV. What a great topic for a picture book. Thanks for your review.

Bridget Magee said...

I'm going to look into getting my hands on this book. A must read. Thanks for sharing. =)

Diane Mayr said...

I'll have to write up an order card for this one at the library--looks good!

Sheri Doyle said...

Great review! I'm so intrigued by the quote about hands - what an interesting, inspiring focus for the book. Can't wait to get 'may hands' on it. Thank you!

Ruth said...

Looks like a great book!

Resh said...

That was a wonderful piece of poetry, looking forward to reading the whole book. Thanks for sharing :)
-Reshama