Jones, Veda Boyd, illus. by Barbara Kiwak. Jazz Age Poet: A Story About Langston Hughes. ISBN 978-1575057576 64 pp. $26.99
This Creative Minds biography focuses on the life of Langston Hughes, an American poet, playwright, novelist and journalist who wrote about the black experience during what came to be known as the Harlem Renaissance. Author Jones traces Hughes steps from his boyhood in the midwest to his jazz and blues infused funeral after infection from an operation, stopping at pivotal moments along the way – first experience at a gospel church, first protest (grade seven, when all the black students were placed in Jim “Crow Row” at the back of the class) and first job ($.50 a week, cleaning at the local hotel).
Hughes is portrayed as ambitious, fair, creative and resourceful. The author recounts facts in an engaging way, setting each scene with the sights and sounds of the time. She explains the concept of having a patron, as Hughes had several in his lifetime, one of whom saw him through the Great Depression unscathed.
The book contains no quotes from the Hughes, but it doesn’t attempt to recreate scenes with fictionalized dialogue. Static black and while pencil illustrations act as snapshots capturing a quiet afternoon on the farm, a second in the city, an introspective moment on board ship and a proud graduation day.
A brief bibliography and an index conclude the volume. The lack of timeline or excerpts from the writer’s work make this a secondary selection.