Saturday, February 2, 2013
by Faith Ringgold
Tar Beach is a work of modern art translated into a children's picture book, and the adaptation is so natural that it seems inevitable. From her 1988 story quilt, reproduced on the cover and within the last pages of the book, Ringgold has taken both the setting and the text. The painted scene in the center of the quilt shows a Harlem rooftop on a starry night with four adults playing cards and with Cassie Louise Lightfoot and her brother, Be Be, lying on a blanket gazing at the sky. Cassie sees herself flying over the city lights; dreams of wearing the George Washington Bridge as a necklace; imagines giving her father the union building he is not allowed to join because of his half-black, half-Indian heritage; flies over the ice cream factory; and takes her little brother with her to the sky. Cassie's story, written along the borders of the quilt in tiny script, becomes the text of the book. The illustrations painted for the book version are done in the same colorful, naive style as the quilt. This type of art translates beautifully into the storybook format, and a border of bright fabric designs on the bottom of each page duplicates the material used in the quilt. In capturing the euphoria of a child's dreams, and in its gentle reminder of the social injustices of the adult world, the book is both universal and contemporary. --Shirley Wilton, Ocean County College
Click here to see my 3rd grade lesson!