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New York Times bestselling and award-winning author Jason Reynolds’s debut picture book is a snappy, joyous ode to Word King, literary genius, and glass-ceiling smasher Langston Hughes and the luminaries he inspired.
Back in the day, there was a heckuva party, a jam, for a word-making man. The King of Letters. Langston Hughes. His ABCs became drums, bumping jumping thumping like a heart the size of the whole country. They sent some people yelling and others, his word-children, to write their own glory.
Maya Angelou, Amiri Baraka, and more came be-bopping to recite poems at their hero’s feet at that heckuva party at the Schomberg Library, dancing boom da boom, stepping and stomping, all in praise and love for Langston, world-mending word man. Oh, yeah, there was hoopla in Harlem, for its Renaissance man. A party for Langston.
About the Author
Jason Reynolds is a #1 New York Times bestselling author, a Newbery Award Honoree, a Printz Award Honoree, a two-time National Book Award finalist, a Kirkus Award winner, a UK Carnegie Medal winner, a two-time Walter Dean Myers Award winner, an NAACP Image Award Winner, an Odyssey Award Winner and two-time honoree, the recipient of multiple Coretta Scott King honors, and the Margaret A. Edwards Award. He was also the 2020–2022 National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. His many books include All American Boys (cowritten with Brendan Kiely); When I Was the Greatest; The Boy in the Black Suit; Stamped; As Brave as You; For Every One; the Track series (Ghost, Patina, Sunny, and Lu); Look Both Ways; Stuntboy, in the Meantime; Ain’t Burned All the Bright (recipient of the Caldecott Honor) and My Name Is Jason. Mine Too. (both cowritten with Jason Griffin); and Long Way Down, which received a Newbery Honor, a Printz Honor, and a Coretta Scott King Honor. He lives in Washington, DC. You can find his ramblings at JasonWritesBooks.com.
Jerome Pumphrey is a designer, illustrator, and writer. His work includes It’s a Sign!, Somewhere in the Bayou, The Old Boat, and The Old Truck, which received seven starred reviews, was named a Best Book of the Year by Publishers Weekly, and received the Ezra Jack Keats Writer Award Honor—all of which he created with his brother Jarrett. They also illustrated Jason Reynolds’s There Was a Party for Langston. Jerome works as a graphic designer at The Walt Disney Company. He lives in Texas.
Jarrett Pumphrey is an award-winning author-illustrator who makes books for kids with his brother, Jerome. Their books include It’s a Sign!, Somewhere in the Bayou, The Old Boat, and The Old Truck, which received seven starred reviews, was named a Best Book of the Year by Publishers Weekly, and received the Ezra Jack Keats Writer Award Honor. They also illustrated Jason Reynolds’s There Was a Party for Langston. Jarrett lives near Austin, Texas.
The creators’ high-stepping testament to the enduring cultural influence of Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes (1901–1967) begins with the promise of a party: “a jam in Harlem to celebrate the word-making man.” Rhythmic lines from Newbery Honoree Reynolds, making his picture book debut, aptly describe Hughes as “the best word maker around./ Could make the word MOTHER feel/ like real warm arms wrapped around you.” In illustrations rendered with handmade stamps, Ezra Jack Keats Award Honorees the Pumphrey brothers apply stylized typography throughout, as on a page in which mother makes up the figure of a parent embracing a child. Melding celebratory text and kinetic, graphical art, the creators underscore the power of the subject’s poetry to move and to inspire.
— Publishers Weekly, *STARRED REVIEW*
*Inspired by a photo of Maya Angelou and Amiri Baraka boogeying down at a 1991 gathering at the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center, this high-stepping shoutout to the honoree of that historic “hoopla in Harlem” pays tribute to the “king of letters,” celebrating the man “who wrote Maya and Amiri into the world” with his “wake-up stories / and rise-and-shine rhymes,” who answered would-be “word breakers” and book burners with courage and laughter. In illustrations as rhythmic and exuberant as Reynolds’ narrative, Langston and the other two luminaries may occupy center stage (their bodies ingeniously constructed from words and the brushed letters of their names), but the entire alphabetically arranged lineup of guests looking on from the bookshelves are familiar names—from Ashley Bryan to Zora Neale Hurston, Toni Morrison to Octavia Butler, Countee Cullen to Nikki Giovanni to Gwendolyn Brooks. Evocative and celebratory words float around the dancers like strains of music, all the way to a culminating whirl of letters, laughter, and joy. Who knew these esteemed literary lions could cut the rug like that?
— Booklist, *STARRED REVIEW*
Inspired by a joyous photo of Angelou and Baraka snapped in 1991 at the opening of the Langston Hughes Auditorium at the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Reynolds sets a syncopated pace with his debut picture book, delivering not only a celebratory dance of a biography, but a primer in Hughes’ own jazz poetry. Not missing a beat and laying down one all their own, the Pumphrey brothers’ illustrations incorporate verses from Hughes’ poems and other words he set into motion to create a thrumming visual landscape where meaning takes literal flight. This book demonstrates that Hughes’ work is the epitome of what words can be. A bar set stratospherically high and cleared with room to spare.
— Kirkus Reviews, *STARRED REVIEW*
Reynolds and the Pumphreys sharpen all their tools for this one, throwing word art like clouds into the sky and regaling readers with scene after scene of the finest guests—Amiri Baraka, Maya Angelou, and so many more—who have come to Harlem’s Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture for one reason: to celebrate the opening of the Langston Hughes Auditorium in February 1991. This book is an absolute textual and pictorial glory of people, places, word-making, song-singing, storytelling, history-making moments, and images that are unforgettable. A beguiling, bedazzling collaboration that will send children to the shelves to learn more about all the names within, especially Hughes.
— School Library Journal, *STARRED REVIEW*