In Lesa Cline-Ransome’s engaging first novel, Finding Langston, the 11-year-old title character describes his experiences growing up in the South Side of Chicago shortly after the end of World War II. Following the death of his mother, Langston and his father have recently moved to Chicago from the home in Alabama. Hundreds of miles away from his friends and beloved grandmother, Langston is lonely and homesick and unsettled by the noise and tumult all around him. In the building where he shares a tiny apartment with his father, the neighbors ignore him, and rats “as big as possums” roam the halls at night. Things are even worse at school, where a bully steals his money each day after class. Lost one afternoon on his way home, Langston finds himself in front of the local library, which, unlike the libraries in Alabama, welcomes people of all races and showcases books by African-American authors. Returning to the library after school each day, he discovers a whole new world of books and writers, including his namesake, the Harlem Renaissance poet, Langston Hughes. Along with his new love for reading, Langston also develops a deeper understanding of the people around him, including his classmates, his father, his late mother, and a nosy downstairs neighbor. Narrated by actor Deon Graham, in a wistful, unaffected delivery that perfectly communicates the longing, confusion, and growing wonder of Langston’s new life, Finding Langston will provide young readers with valuable lessons about the hurtfulness of stereotyping, the rich treasury of 20th-century African-American literature, and the joy to be found in reading.
David Shirley ©2019 Parents’ Choice
David Shirley’s recent nonfiction titles include A History of Brooklyn Bridge Park and Fix It Leroy! His YA biographies, Every Day I Sing the Blues: The Story of B. B. King and Satchel Paige: Baseball Legend were honored as the New York Public Library’s Best Books for Teens.