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The Study of Poetry and Literature for Children & Young Adults

Module 5: Poetry Book Review by a Poet of Color

Smith, Charles R. 2002. Perfect Harmony: A Musical Journey with The Boys Choir of Harlem. Ill. by the author. New York: Hyperion. ISBN 078668758X

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Charles R. Smith, author of 13 books for children including the basketball related poetry quartet of rap styled poetry books, Rim Shots, Short Takes, Hoop Queens and Hoop Kings  is also a professional photographer and shoots his own photos for the illustrations in many of his books.

 

"Poetic expressions, spirited poetry and vibrant photographs combine in Perfect Harmony: A Musical Journey with The Boys Choir of Harlem by Charles R. Smith," affirms Publishers Weekly.

 

Perfect Harmony: A Musical Journey with The Boys Choir of Harlem is not only appealing to children with its variety of music related poetry ranging from free verse to rhyming to haiku but also an educational tool and resource for the classroom or music teacher. With catchy beats and energetic wording the poems work equally well read aloud to a group or silently to oneself.

 

Kirkus Review states, “Elementary and middle-school teachers may find these poems useful to integrate poetry into music classes, and they will also use the appended lists of poetic and musical terms with students.”

 

The thirteen poems vary in subject from harmony, tempo and rhythm to haikus that define soprano, alto, tenor and bass to the vivacious B-Flat Boogie which cannot be read without moving your body to the delightful beat. The final stanza synthesizes the feelings that B-Flat Boogie and Bebop evoke………….

B-FLAT BOOGIE and

bebop beats simmer slowly

over hungry ears

like hot bubbling gumbo

setting senses on fire.

 

All of the poems except for the haiku (which are one per page), are featured on double paged spreads with full color bleed. The pages are illustrated with blocks of warm pastels. Each poem is featured in a contrasting color block. Each page also features photographs taken by the author of the Harlem Boys Choir as they passionately prepare, rehearse and perform. The close-ups shots of the boys faces as they sing angelically or shout enthusiastically are especially touching as the reader can feel the emotions the boys are projecting with their performance.

 

Nina Lindsay of the School Library Journal offers a resounding endorsement, “To enjoy alone or to read to a group, this is a rousing tribute to the poetic and musical voice.”

 

Smith’s poem Harmony beautifully describes the gift of song possessed by these talented youth.

 

A perfect marriage of rhythm and time,

voices blend to create harmonic rhyme.

 

Bass drops anchor in musical sea,

for tenor and alto to create harmony.

 

Soprano chimes in with high notes that soar,

bass booms deep to even the score.

 

Tenor pitches words so nat-u-rally,

while alto floats in smooth and gracefully.

 

Soprano she flies so high in the sky,

as alto hovers below and nearby.

 

Each voice shines bright like glass in the sun,

harmony brings them together as one.

 

When musical notes melt with precision and pace,

music has life, energy, and grace.

WORKS CITED

 

 

Kirkus Reviews. 2002. Perfect Harmony: A Musical Journey with The Boys Choir of Harlem. Ill. by the author. (book review). Kirkus Reviews. July 15, 2002.

 

Lindsay, Nina. 2002. Perfect Harmony: A Musical Journey with The Boys Choir of Harlem. Ill. by the author. (book review). School Library Journal. August 1, 2002.

 

Publishers Weekly. 2002. Perfect Harmony: A Musical Journey with The Boys Choir of Harlem. Ill. by the author. (book review). Publishers Weekly. July 8, 2002.

 

Smith, Charles R. 2002. Perfect Harmony: A Musical Journey with The Boys Choir of Harlem. Ill. by the author. New York: Hyperion. ISBN 078668758X

 

Website, available at http://www.charlesrsmithjr.com/