Harlem At Four: An Inspirational Picture Book Celebrating A Modern Black Family And Their Historic Neighborhood

July 29, 2023

From New York Times, bestselling author Dr. Michael Datcher and critically acclaimed illustrator Frank Morrison comes Harlem At Four.

The book is produced by Random House Studio, on sale September 19, 2023; for Ages 4–8, a picture book told in two parts. Part one is a loving snapshot of four-year-old Harlem and her father, while the second part focuses on a moment of history for Harlem, New York.  

Inspired by his daughter, Dr. Datcher wrote Harlem At Four to commemorate their many adventures together and to depict a healthy and loving Black father-daughter relationship. Dr. Dathcer also wanted to tell the story of Harlem, the story of the historically Black neighborhood, and the Harlem Renaissance that served as inspirations for his daughter’s name.

The book is beautifully illustrated (see the images below), Frank uses his looser art style, seen in his author/illustrator debut Kick Push in the first part of the story to beautifully capture young Harlem and her relationship with her father while the second part takes readers back to 1904.

… an inspirational and powerful story…

Below, Frank illustrates in his more traditional style as seen in Standing in the Need of Prayer, winner of the 2023 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award. Together, Dr. Michael Datcher and Frank Morrison create an inspirational and powerful story that weaves together the themes of family, Black culture, and Black history in the world’s most famous greatest community in world: Harlem.

Harlem At Four is a picture book comprising two incredible stories—the first part chronicles the adventures of a four-year-old Black girl named Harlem, while the second part describes the history of Harlem and the neighborhood, from a New York Times bestselling author and a critically acclaimed illustrator.

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The picture book in two parts, meets Harlem: the girl and the neighborhood. Part one follows the adventures of a little girl named Harlem and her single father as they go on a museum “playdate” with painters Romare Bearden and Jean-Michel Basquiat, listen to John Coltrane records, and conduct science experiments in their apartment (“The volcano erupts /Red lava on Valentine’s Day!”).

Part two takes us back to the fourth year of the twentieth century in Harlem the neighborhood. Here, we are introduced to Philip A. Payton Jr., aka Papa Payton, whose Afro-American Realty Company gave birth to the Black housing explosion, helping to start America’s Great Black Migration. Because of Papa Peyton, Black families—like Harlem and her father a century later—could move to Harlem and thrive and flourish.

This is a unique, picture book by a New York Times bestselling author and a Coretta Scott King Award-winning illustrator that weaves together the lives of a modern Black family and a historically Black neighborhood in New York City.

Dr. Micheal Datcher received his B.S. from UC Berkeley and his Ph.D. from UC Riverside in English Literature. He is the author of the New York Times Bestseller Raising Fences and the critically acclaimed Ferguson-area historical novel Americus. His book Animating Black and Brown Liberation: A Theory of American Literatures was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Datcher has made numerous media appearances, including OprahToday Show, and Dateline. Dr. Michael Datcher is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Writing at New York University’s School of Liberal Studies.

Frank Morrison started his journey as a graffiti artist in New Jersey, tagging walls with spray paint.

It wasn’t until he visited the Louvre Museum in Paris as part of the Sugar Hill Gang’s dance entourage that he realized painting was his true creative path.

His work has been featured at Art Basel, SCOPE Miami Beach, and Red Dot art fairs, and shown at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem and the Mason Fine Art Gallery in Atlanta.

He is the illustrator of over twenty children’s books, including the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award winner R-E-S-P-E-C-T, the Coretta Scott King–John Steptoe Award winner Jazzy Miz Mozetta, and the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor books Little Melba and Her Big Trombone and Let the Children March. Frank was a Society of Illustrators Original Art Silver Medal Honoree two years in a row, for The Roots of Rap and R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

Get your copy here.

Photo credit: 1-3) Random House Children’s Books.

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