The Blacker the Berry


What rich diversity there is in black. What’s more, we’re reminded that ‘Colours, without black/ couldn’t sparkle so bright…’  Thereafter, we consider ‘midnight black, ‘midnight and berries; that ‘call the silver stars at dusk‘. Then again, we celebrate Raspberry Black of the ‘pioneer-woman’ and the ‘Seminole husband‘, with ‘children- the colour of black dipped in red’. What of the Golden Goodness, of ‘the bronze on the summer leaves/ turning to autumn‘ or coffee black, ‘coffee so thick and black/ A spoon could stand in it’. 

Joyce Carol Thomas won the Coretta Scott King Award for these magnificent poems that celebrate the rich diversity of life, history and tone within blackness. Alongside her glowing, generous observations of such pride and love, are Floyd Cooper’s gorgeous, light infused portraits. Altogether The Blacker the Berry is a beautiful poetry book that merits a place on every classroom shelf, a celebration of the rich individuality of humanity.

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The Blacker the Berry

Poems by Joyce Carol Thomas, illustrated by Floyd Cooper


‘Colours, without black,/ couldn’t sparkle so bright’… However within that black are varieties, depths and individuality. Therefore, Joyce Carol Thomas created The Blacker the Berry, for which she won the Coretta Scott King Award.
Thereafter, we wonder What Shade is Human, to which ‘Grandpa says,/ It’s the milk of kindness/ that makes us human’. Thenceforth he explains about ‘White milk/ Chocolate milk/ Sweet milk/ Mother’s milk….‘ However, it’s the warmth from ‘vine to vine’ that the Sunshine Girl absorbs, ‘Like a cat going/ Round and round the mulberry bush‘ feeling ‘absolutely fabulous/ To be this brown’.  Meanwhile ‘deep down hearingYou’re not really Black‘ cut ‘deep down/- /Beneath the snowy skin/ to- the ‘one drop of blood’ / That makes Black me’.
The images are lush and sensory, and realised through the rich pictures of Floyd Cooper. What’s more, each picture is a portrait that means we can feel and know the feelings and words intimately.
Bookwagon loves this poetry title and recommends it highly. Alongside works such as Hey You! or Can I Touch Your Hair?, The Blacker the Berry is a necessary, enabling and glorious title that celebrates humanity in all its rich diversity.


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