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Tar Beach
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About the Author

Faith Ringgold was born in Harlem, but now divides her time between New Jersey and La Jolla, California. She is a professor of fine art at the University of California at San Diego, where she teaches for half of the year.

An artist of international renown, Faith is best known for her story quilts -- works that combine painting, quilted fabric, and storytelling. Faith's first book for children, Tar Beach, was a Caldecott Honor Book, a winner of the Coretta Scott King Award for illustration, a Reading Rainbow featured selection, a New York Times Best Illustrated Book, and the recipient of numerous other honors, including a Parents Choice Gold Award. Faith is married to Burdette Ringgold and has two daughters, Michele and Barbara, and three granddaughters, Faith, Teddy and Martha.

Reviews

``Quilt paintings''--acrylic on canvas paper, with fabric borders from Ringgold's story quilt of the same name--illustrate a Depression era girl's imaginative foray to heights from which she can see and therefore claim her world. Picnicking on the roof of her family's Harlem apartment building--a ``tar beach'' to which they bring fried chicken and roasted peanuts, watermelon and beer, and, not least, friends and laughter--Cassie pictures herself soaring above New York City: above the George Washington Bridge, which her father helped build; above the headquarters of the union that has denied him membership, because he's black; above the rooms in which they live. Ringgold's strong figures and flattened perspective bring a distinctive magic to this dreamy and yet wonderfully concrete vision, narrated in poetic cadences that capture the language and feel of flight. Ages 4-8. (Feb.)

Gr 1 Up--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, Toms River, NJ

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