Ideas for Using There Was a Party for Langston in the Classroom

Posted February 3, 2024 by Richetta in #ownvoices, Black History Month, Book Reviews, Children's Books / 0 Comments

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Ideas for Using There Was a Party for Langston in the ClassroomThere Was a Party for Langston by Jason Reynolds
Illustrator: Jerome and Jarrett Pumphrey
Published by Simon and Schuster on October 3, 2023
five-stars
Genres: Juvenile Fiction / Imagination & Play, Juvenile Fiction / People & Places / United States / African American & Black
Pages: 56
Format: Hardcover
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A Caldecott Honor Book
A Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book

New York Times bestselling and award-winning author Jason Reynolds’s debut picture book is a snappy, joyous ode to Word King, literary genius, and glass-ceiling smasher Langston Hughes and the luminaries he inspired.

Back in the day, there was a heckuva party, a jam, for a word-making man. The King of Letters. Langston Hughes. His ABCs became drums, bumping jumping thumping like a heart the size of the whole country. They sent some people yelling and others, his word-children, to write their own glory.

Maya Angelou, Amiri Baraka, and more came be-bopping to recite poems at their hero’s feet at that heckuva party at the Schomberg Library, dancing boom da boom, stepping and stomping, all in praise and love for Langston, world-mending word man. Oh, yeah, there was hoopla in Harlem, for its Renaissance man. A party for Langston.

Also by this author: Ain't Burned All the Bright

Review: There Was a Party for Langston by Jason Reynolds

This is such a fun book! For lovers of history, poetry, storytelling, and art, there is something for each that will keep you in awe. I was actually introduced to this book through a launch party where I got to hear Jason Reynolds introduce There Was a Party for Langston. This picture book was inspired by a photograph of poets Amiri Baraka and Maya Angelou dancing together in a… library. I literally gasped when I saw the illustrations created by brothers Jerome and Jarrett Pumphrey. They are genius and truly speak to the genius of Langston Hughes, one of my favorite poets.

Book cover - Langston
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Reminiscing on a Legendary Poet

This book is a celebration of Langston Hughes and his enormous contribution to American Literature. Adult readers will recognize many of the references to his work and poems. You will find yourself reminiscing about the first time you heard “Mother to Son” or thinking about your favorite Langston Hughes poem. When you see the pages with the books, you will get nostalgic about all of your favorite Black authors.

Hooking Young Readers

Younger readers will learn about who he was as a writer. The illustrations are right in sync with rhythm of the words. They will be intrigued at how Maya, Amiri and the other party goers are celebrating a writer. Hopefully, they will ask questions as to why they are celebrating too. My seven year old loved the lyrical language. He also got super excited when he saw the illustrations which added another level of learning and inquiry.

Use in the Classroom

This is a picture book that not only can be used in the classroom, but can be used on multiple levels and for multiple contents. I’ll give a few examples:

  • Photography & Creative Writing: This book was inspired by a photograph. What a great writing prompt idea! Students can find a photograph and write a short story inspired by it.
  • Art: The illustrators demonstrate their process in the video below. But they also created imagery that seamlessly connected to the story. Have students pick a story or historical figure and think about what medium and style they would use to illustrate a book on that topic.
  • History: Have students research the historical figures mentioned and seen in the book.
  • Literature: Do an author study of Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou and Amiri Baraka. Do an exploration of famous Black poets. Pick one of the authors featured on the bookshelves to learn more about. Read some of the poetry referenced in the illustrations.
  • Creative Writing: Choose an important figure in American Literature or history and write a short story that celebrates them.

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