The Blacker the Berry

The Blacker the Berry


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Black is dazzling and distinctive, like toasted wheat berry bread; snowberries in the fall; rich, red cranberries; and the bronzed last leaves of summer. In this lyrical and luminous poetry collection, Coretta Scott King honorees Joyce Carol Thomas and Floyd Cooper celebrate these many shades of black beautifully.

Included in's 2017 list of recommended diverse poetry picture books for kids. "Highly recommended for home and school libraries," commented Brightly's Charnaie Gordon. "Each melodic poem eloquently conveys the beauty of different skin tones and complexions. There are also themes of family, traditions, feelings, self-love, and acceptance echoed throughout this book."

We are color struck 

The way an artist strikes

His canvas with his brush of many hues

Look closely at these mirrors

these palettes of skin

Each color is rich

in its own right

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060253752
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 07/01/2008
Pages: 32
Sales rank: 611,707
Product dimensions: 11.48(w) x 7.80(h) x 0.34(d)
Age Range: 4 - 8 Years

About the Author

Joyce Carol Thomas is an internationally renowned author who received the National Book Award for her first novel, Marked By Fire, and a Coretta Scott King Honor for The Blacker the Berry and for her first picture book, Brown Honey in Broomwheat Tea. Her picture book I Have Heard of a Land received a Coretta Scott King Honor and an IRA/CBC Teachers' Choice Award and was an ALA Notable Book. Her other titles include The Gospel Cinderella, Crowning Glory, Gingerbread Days, and A Gathering of Flowers. Ms. Thomas lives in Berkeley, California.

Floyd Cooper received a Coretta Scott King Award for his illustrations in The Blacker the Berry and a Coretta Scott King Honor for Brown Honey in Broomwheat Tea and I Have Heard of a Land. Born and raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Mr. Cooper received a degree in fine arts from the University of Oklahoma and, after graduating, worked as an artist for a major greeting card company. In 1984, he came to New York City to pursue a career as an illustrator of books, and he now lives in Easton, Pennsylvania, with his wife and children.

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Blacker the Berry 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
Katya0133 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A beautiful set set of poems about embracing your unique cultural heritage, no matter what it is.
karsenault07 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Genre: Poetry This is a great example of poetry because this is a whole book full of poems about palettes of skin and how each color is rich in its own right. My favorite correlation they used was, the blacker the berry the sweeter the juice. Another line in a poem was "it's the milk of kindness that makes us human." This definitely has a double meaning and through out this whole book there are great double meanings similar to that one. Some of the poems rhythm and others don't but it is a great example of poetry with great illustrations to go with each poem. Art Media: acrylic paint
princessofthesea on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Subject Area: Language ArtsGenre: PoetryCritique/Summary:This book is an excellent example of poetry. It is a collection of many poems by the same author. All of the poems are responses of the author to the issue of race and ethnicity. The poems are beautiful creations in themselves and invoke feelings of identity, pride, and appreciation for the wide palette of backgrounds that make up our world. This book is an example of lyric poetry. (Stars for style)Age: Intermediate
tnelson725 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book won the Coretta Scott King Award and is composed of twelve poems that celebrates the different skin shades of African Americans and describes their heritage. Each poem is special and is accompanied by a different beautiful illustration. In "Cranberry Red," a child explains that he had Irish ancestors and that "reddened the Africa in [his] face." Another poem, "Skin Deep" asks others to put themselves in another's skin. I loved this book. I think that students (not just African Americans) will enjoy this book. It is fascinating and the poems are wonderful. The message is an important one: that you are special and beautiful, no matter what color your skin may be.This would be a great book anytime in the classroom, but it would be especially wonderful during Black History Month. After we read this book, I would have students write in their journal about what makes them special and unique. If they know where their ancestors are from, they would list it.
tlwood on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This beautiful book celebrates all the shades of black people in 12 poems that offer lyrical, rhyming verse. The illustrations are fabulous and each child has his/her own story to tell -- with the overriding theme that black is beautiful and that being "human" is not a color. We are all brothers and sisters and should celebrate our diversity and live in unity.The book is appealing to all young school children, not just African-American children. The poetry is engaging and could be used to supplement curriculum easily, as well as to foster a love of poetry. This would be an easy book to read aloud.
rwheeler08 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Genre: PoetryCritique of Genre: This is an excellent example of poetry because it incorporates rhyme and rhythm with imagery. There are 12 unique narrative poems written about different African American children; each poem tells a different story.Age: Primary, IntermediateCritique of Style: (See star rating above)
ebruno on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a book of poems about the different shades of black. This book is important and may help children see that everybody is different and unique in their own way.
HopeMiller123 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I like this book because it contains poems that make African American girls appreciate their skin color. There are many controversial issues that come up when someone that is black is very light skinned, or not as black as someone with very dark brown skin. This book shows that cno matter if you are blue-black, yellow-black, any shade of brown, or creamy white that it really doesn't matter and that you skin color shouldn't define you as a person. I good book for childrent o read to appreciate their racial differences or similarities, despite contasting sterotypes and ignorances.
gildallie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Both the illustrating and the writing are great in this. I thought the illustrations were gorgeously done, but it did win a King Honor for the writing, though, so that is exceptionally done. It¿s a compilation of the author¿s poetry talking about the variety of African American backgrounds, skin tones, and possible thoughts concerning kids of African American descent. It¿s done in a sweet way but with able depth to address true worries kids might have.It is illustrated with very fine quality art with the theme being the broad backgrounds of African-American kids and being proud that they are unique and beautiful. It think the author addresses serious concerns kids have in an extraordinarily talented fashion. Plus it¿s written in a way that I believe will carry the interest of children. Fun, light with situations that kids generally have similar experiences in (time with grandma, other kids poking fun, etc¿)
fullerl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A beautiful book that explores the many shades of ¿Black¿ using berries as a comparison. The first pages states, "Colors without black couldn't sparle quite to birght." Each poem is in the voice of an African American child, sharing their thoughts about their own shade of Black. One says she is "midnight and berries" while another says he is the color or black dipped in red. These children speak with joy and pride, as well as uncertainty and even sadness.
CarmellaLee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Personal Response:The 12 poems are fun and written well. They make a reader smile as they read them. The book is perfect to be read aloud. This collection of poems will surely instill a sense of racial pride and self-esteem in African-American children.Curricular or Programming Connections:Curriculum for writing PoemsAfrican-American Great to be read aloud
sweetiegherkin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Using berries as a metaphor, Thomas explores race and skin color in this slim volume of poetry. Each poem is written from a different child¿s perspective, bringing in the berry metaphor as the child contemplates her/his skin color and/or ethnic background. The poems are all wonderfully crafted, and the realistic illustrations add to the overall beauty of the book. This is a great book for children to read, teaching them to appreciate their own beauty and the beauty of others.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Lindsey_Miller More than 1 year ago
This was a fun book to read, not just because of the simple but educational poetry, but also because the artwork is engaging. It must have taken Cooper a long time to paint them because of their photo-realistic quality. It's also a great book for young African American children to read in order to see the differences in their culture and why some of their own kin may look completely different than they do. I especially liked the line where a girl claims to be "cranberry red" from her father's Irish heritage. I recommend it to learning readers from ages 3 - 8. -Lindsey Miller,
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I just love this book. Grand children should learn the Black Americans come in a varied of shades of black.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
SJKessel More than 1 year ago
Thomas, J.C. (2008). The Blacker the Berry. New York: Joanna Cotler Books. 9780060253752 The Blacker the Berry features twelve poems written by Joyce Carol Thomas complimenting different shades of skin color and connecting those colors with similes and metaphors of foods-mostly berries. While the actual content of the picturebook is far from tense, there is building in the sense that the final poem incorporates all of the children previously described. Issues explored through the poems include the ideas of 'passing' as white, ethnic identity, connection to the past, ways of peacefully resisting negative perceptions, etc. All of these could become points to discuss with a class. This picturebook won the Coretta Scott King Award this year for the illustrations. The pictures feature African American children with a range of skin tones in natural environments, doing a number of activities, almost always smiling. The picturebook naturalizes blackness and presents as many different skin tones as possible positively. Activities to do with the book: Children could write poems about their own skin color and that of their friends and loved ones and create illustrations to accompany them. A lighter writing option could be to write about favorite foods and how people resemble them in physical characteristics and personality. A teacher can also use these poems for examples of images and metaphors. Students could also discuss the issues presented by the poems in class or small groups as well as offer their own narratives triggered by those discussions. Favorite Quotes: "Day couldn't dawn without the night Colors, without black, couldn't sparkle quite so bright" "It feels absolutely fabulous To be this brown Anyway, I refuse to walk too long in shadow" "We are color struck The way an artist strikes His canvas with his brush of many hues" For more of my reviews, visit
Anonymous More than 1 year ago