Collier, Bryan (2000). Uptown. New York: Henry Holt and Company.
Plot Description: The narrator, a young boy, takes the readers on a journey through Harlem. Pointing out all the people and sights along the way like chicken and waffles any time of day, the busy shopping streets, jazz music, the Apollo Theater, the barber shop, the brownstone buildings, a basketball game, church, choir practice, etc. Everything in Harlem is vibrant and full of life through the little boy’s eyes. Then night falls and it is time to return home. Harlem is his world. Harlem is Home.
Quantitative Reading Level : Lexile Measure: AD420L, ATOS Book Level: 2.8, Interest Level: Lower Grades (K-3), AR Points: 0.5
Qualitative Reading Analysis: Organization is clear and easy to predict. The book is illustrated with collages of photographs, paintings and drawings, which support interpretation of the text. Figurative language features prominently in the book. Metaphors are used throughout the text to say that Uptown is all its parts and the events and activities that happen there. For example, Uptown is a caterpillar or Uptown is chicken and waffles. Each page features a metaphor for Uptown and then the narrator’s explanation of the metaphor. Readers are supported in understanding the figurative language with explanations and illustrations. The journey through Harlem is told in first person narration, by a young African American boy who lives there. The register is casual, but poetic and the tone conveys a sense of pride in the narrator for his home.
Content Area: English Language Arts, Art: Mixed Media
Content Area Standard: English Language Arts Reading: Literature
Craft and Structure: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.2.4 Describe how words and phrases (e.g., regular beats, alliteration, rhymes, repeated lines) supply rhythm and meaning in a story, poem, or song.
Integration of Knowledge and Ideas: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.3.7 Explain how specific aspects of a text’s illustrations contribute to what is conveyed by the words in a story (e.g., create mood, emphasize aspects of a character or setting)
Production and Distribution of Writing: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.2.5 With guidance and support from adults and peers, focus on a topic and strengthen writing as needed by revising and editing.
Curriculum Suggestions: Have students discuss the use of collages to illustrate the book, then have them make collages to represent their own neighborhoods. After making their collages, students can discuss their neighborhoods and write about them. Have students analyze the use of rhythm in the story and try to use rhythm in their own writing about their neighborhood. Students can present their collage while sharing what they wrote.
Supporting Digital Content:
Awards: NCTE Notable Children’s Books in the Language Arts; Award Winners-Ezra Jack Keats Award; Award Winners-Coretta Scott King Award/Honors; Award Winners-Marion Vannett Ridgway Award/Honor Books
Character names/descriptions: The unnamed narrator who is a young boy living in Harlem.
High interest annotation: Journey through Harlem with the joyous young narrator and see his home as he does.