by Eloise Greenfield, Jan Spivey Gilchrist (Illustrator)
Beautifully composed in a variety of styles--rap, blues, and free verse--these 18 poems offers a black child's insights into his own heart and mind, and into the lives of family and friends. Nine-year-old Nathaniel reflects on what it's like to be curious, smart, and full of ideas. 1990 Coretta Scott King Award.
The rhythm of Greenfield's text is infectious from a very early line: ``It's Nathaniel talking / and Nathaniel's me/ I'm talking about / My philosophy/ About the things I do / And the people I see / All told in the words / Of Nathaniel B. Free / That's me.'' Her sentiments are equally affecting, but in a more sobering way; Nathaniel wonders when he'll ever be old enough not to have to answer a question ``I don't know,'' and he remembers his mother, who has died: ``Mama was funny / was full of jokes / was pretty / dark brown-skinned / laughter.'' His experiences are warmly universal, as are Gilchrist's depictions of his joyful and sorrowful moments, and both poetry, picture and mood come together in one wistful moment when Nathaniel says, ``I know life ain't no piece of pie . . . I know I got to try.'' Ages 5-11. (June)