Fuse 8 n’ Kate: Uptown by Bryan Collier
Author/illustrators aren’t supposed to have favorites but what do you want to bet that there’s a special place in Bryan Collier’s heart for his award-winning Uptown? Since I lived in Harlem for 11 years, it seemed fitting for me to go through the book with Kate, 22 years after its initial publication. In the course of things Kate finds a prominent male member (if you know what I mean), copious chocolate squares, and a love of golf that surprised us all.
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Kate points out that there’s a penis on this page. But what she missed at the time is that there’s actually a penis on the cover as well. So the next time someone asks you “What picture book features a male member on its book jacket?”, you now have an answer.
So when I was a kid the picture books I loved the most were the ones with the most delicious renditions of chocolate. And had I seen Bryan Collier’s chocolate squares turned into brownstone buildings, I would have been enthralled. Rightfully so.
Having lived in Harlem for over a decade, this image right here of 125th Street is the most accurate that I have EVER seen in a picture book. The vibrancy of the neighborhood, the life and the colors, it’s all here. It’s all splendid.
Kate got very excited when she saw this sheet music. She was pretty darn sure it was going to be jazz (as the text on the page implied). Upon closer inspection, however, this appears to be gospel or hymns. The phrase, “Dear Lord, forgive me” appears to be repeated three times.
Meanwhile the guys in the barber shop are really into golf. I mean, really really into golf. If you can find a section of this paper that refers to something other than golf, well done. Well done.
In this spread there’s a lot of discussion of James Van Der Zee. If you’re interesting in reading a picture book biography of him, please check out Take a Picture of Me, James Van Der Zee by Andrea Loney, illustrated by Keith Mallett. It provides a delightful encapsulation of the man’s life. It’s just a pity there aren’t any portraits of his on the walls in this shot.
Sometimes it’s the little things that impress. A mention of each note landing on the boy in the audience like a butterfly, and the subtle shot of the butterfly pin in the girl’s hair.
Kate was particularly taken by the rendition of clouds in this image, like mountains in the sky. There are no mountains visible in Harlem, so this is the next best thing.
Filed under: Fuse 8 n' Kate
About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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