Love to Langston

By Kirkus Reviews

A biography in verse pays homage to the life and art of Langston Hughes. “Little Boy Blues,” “First Grade,” and “Jim Crow Row” tell of Hughes’s childhood experiences with racism. “Grandma’s Stories are about his ancestors’ courage in the days of slavery. His painful relationship with his father is told in “I Do Not Like My Father Much.” As the poems progress, they delve deeper into Hughes’s love of “endless, beautiful words,” his determination to discover “other voices and places,” and his joy in being part of the creative life that he finds among his people in Harlem, “the capital of my world.” All of the poems are in the first person, using Langston’s voice. Several of Medina’s poems directly and deliberately echo Hughes’s own work. “Grandma’s Stories” here corresponds with Hughes’s “Aunt Sue’s Stories,” while Medina’s “Sometimes Life Ain’t Always A Hoot” is the offspring of the famous “Mother to Son.” The poems are presented in chronological order, representing the stages of the poet’s like. They cannot and are not meant to be a complete biography. However, Medina’s introduction and detailed biographical endnotes help to fill in some of the gaps. The whole work is brought to life by Christie’s remarkable, compelling illustrations, which perfectly complement each poem in content and mood. Christie also pays subtle homage to African-American artists who have gone before him by incorporating hints of the styles of Horace Pippin and Jacob Lawrence in his illustrations. This is a treasure to be read and reread–a splendid work.