Book review by
Patricia Tauzer, Common Sense Media
Uptown Book Poster Image
Harlem is home in this jazzy award-winner.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Positive Messages

Life in Harlem is celebrated by a young African-American boy.

Violence & Scariness

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this is a beautifully evocative book with no objectionable material.

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What's the story?

A young African-American boy takes the reader on a tour of the sights and sounds of Harlem, his hometown.

Is it any good?

Each page in UPTOWN is a masterpiece; the words are simple statements followed by short explanations that show why the boy loves this place. Kids and adults alike will enjoy each step as the young African-American boy leads them through his neighborhood with its chicken and waffles, rows of brownstones that look like blocks of chocolate, jumping vibes of 125th Street, jazz, barbershops, orange sunsets, and songs of the Harlem Boys Choir. The words wend from one colorful page to the next as he moves through aromas, sights, and sounds, noting the combinations that blend together to make Harlem the exciting world it is.

This collage of life is echoed brilliantly in Bryan Collier's illustrations, a spectacular blend of cut paper and watercolor. The cuttings and patterns create the sound of the city, the exciting joyful bustle of people going about their lives in the neighborhood. This award-winning book is truly a feast for the senses.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what it would be like to live in a city, especially New York and Harlem. Would you like the trains, the bustle, the brownstones hooked one to another? Do you agree that chicken and waffles is a strange combination? Would you like it? What about jazz, basketball, and going to church? What is a Van der Veer photograph, or have you heard the Harlem Boys Choir? Does the boy seem to like these things? How do you know? Kids might enjoy talking about the things that make their neighborhoods special. If they were writing this book, what kinds of things would they show people about the places where they live?

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