The 34 concise poems in this collection, Bronzeville Boys and Girls by Gwendolyn Brooks, illustrated by Faith Ringgold (Amistad, 2007) were first published in 1956. They are just as fresh and appealing today; maybe even more so in this newly illustrated edition by Ringgold, whose paintings of the neighborhood houses and children are a perfect match for Brooks's poems [compare the cover of the original edition below]. I love that each poem has a name (Keziah, Nora, Tommy): the name of the child it speaks for or about. Ringgold, in "About Bronzeville Boys and Girls," says "[Brooks] reminded us that whether we live in the Bronzeville section of Chicago or any other neighborhood, childhood is universal in its richness of emotions and new experiences. We are all Bronzeville boys and girls." I think she's right: at least I recognized myself (child and adult) in more than one of these poems.
From "Eunice in the evening:"
What is so nice in the dining room
Daddy on the long settee--
A child in every chair--
Mama pouring cocoa in
The little cups of blue.
(And each of us has leave to take
A ginger cookie, too.)
[The original cover art by Ronni Solbert.]