Sunday, April 08, 2007

Joyce Carol Thomas and SHOUTING!

I am celebrating Easter Sunday today and I found the perfect poetry book to share: Shouting! by Joyce Carol Thomas, a poetic celebration of faith, worship, and celebration, illustrated with vibrant color and energy by Annie Lee (Hyperion, 2007). Here’s just a taste:

Mama was dressed for Sunday

White lace on her collar
And crinkled lace on her sleeves
Sprinkle light in her hug
Then dance rhythms in our hearts
Throbbing spring evergreen

Mama was ready for Sunday


I can still see my mama’s shout
I can still hear a myriad of
African musicians playing
On our souls, on our heartstrings
And we, still spirit-touched in
Our modern dance, move

Onward, upward, reaching
‘Til we’re tracing back through time
The same steps, that same familiar…


An author’s note provides background on Thomas’s thoughts in writing this book, tracing the joy of religious expression from African dance to Sunday worship to modern hip hop. Thomas’s words brought back vivid memories for me of witnessing the ebullient dancing of friends and acquaintances while living in Zimbabwe many years ago—like a full body expression of a rousing musical chorus! (And thank you to Jo Anna Patton for the gift of this book.)

Joyce Carol Thomas has penned noteworthy poetry and plays for adults, fiction for young adults, as well as poetry collections for children that capture and celebrate African American culture in ways that help all readers acknowledge their roots. Two favorites are Brown Honey in Broomwheat Tea (HarperCollins, 1993) and Gingerbread Days (HarperCollins, 1995), both beautifully illustrated by Floyd Cooper. In the poems in Crowning Glory (HarperCollins 2002), Thomas honors the African American traditions of braids, cornrows, dreadlocks, ribbons, and scarves in adorning the head and hair. She narrows her focus to mothers and daughters, with her poetry book, A Mother's Heart, A Daughter's Love: Poems for Us to Share (HarperCollins 2001), full of poems designed to be read alone, together in a duet, or as a call and response. For younger children, Joyce Thomas has compiled the pleasing collection, Hush Songs: African American Lullabies (Hyperion 2000), featuring ten songs including lyrics, music, and introductions. She has also authored picture books, board books, and retellings of folktales collected by Zora Neale Hurston. Her lyrical language and focus on family, identity, and culture is distinctive and engaging.

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