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Bird in a Box

I have a few loves in my life besides people: books ( all stories really), my cats (Emmit is helping write this entry by keeping my lap warm) and art (especially photography).  As I have learned and practiced the art of photography, I always remind myself that the work should be beautiful and provocative.  I like to provoke people by reminding them that there is always hope.  The piece that best does this for me is Picasso's Guernica.  This black and white mural conveys the chaos, pain and destruction that is war.  It also offers us hope in the shape of a flower and a lit candle.

Hope is a strange thing to describe to a child.  It is also impossible to show to these very concrete thinkers.  But I read a book yesterday that shows its reader hope from many angles- Bird in a Box by Andrea Davis Pinkney.  It a piece of historical fiction told by three children, Hibernia, Otis and Willie, living in Elmira, New York.  It is set in 1936 and 1937.  The common bond between the children is the boxing career of Joe Louis, The Brown Bomber.  The facts surrounding Louis are accurate down to the use of the actual transcripts of the radio announcers working Joe's fights.

The story is a blend of romantic nostalgia and harsh realism.  I appreciated the frankness of the children.  They are completely alive on the page.  I enjoyed learning about Joe Louis and what he meant to the African American community of the 1930s.  I also appreciate the references to the many great artist who came to fame in Harlem. The children of this novel live into their own hope willingly and without regard to the risks that come when you live into it.  And they are rewarded.  Each begin to harvest the promises of the seeds of hope they planted at the beginning of the novel as they gather together to listen to Joe Louis reach his goal of becoming the Heavyweight Champion of the World.

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