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Sure we like our kids to read, but we also like them to imagine, and Tar Beach is one of those books kids will treasure for years just because it revs up their creative engines and sets them on a dream-like adventure like no other.
Written by Faith Ringgold, this book is not only a Caldecott Honor Book, but a winner of the Coretta Scott King Award for illustration, a Reading Rainbow featured selection, as well as being one of the New York Times’ Best Illustrated Books. This book is like the Katherine Hepburn of award winners.
So let us set the scene. Tar Beach is all about eight-year-old Cassie. While enjoying a picnic at Tar Beach (the roof of the family’s Harlem apartment building), Cassie starts to dream — wearing the George Washington Bridge as a necklace, giving her father the Union Building which he helped build, and flying over an ice cream factory. But this book is not merely a matter of flippant dreams and wishes, but a look into the imagination, into socioeconomic boundaries, and even a look into self-confidence and capabilities (some would call it “transcending reality”).
And to top it all off, the book features amazing acrylic illustrations that resemble the original quilt which inspired the story (something Faith Ringgold is known for—check out her quilts hanging at the Guggenheim. We’re not even into quilts but find them kinda awesome).