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Yo, Jo! 02/03/11

cover art

Yo, Jo! is one of two books Harriet checked out at a recent trip to the library. The illustrations are colorful, probably done as collage. They were an immediate attraction for her.

Jo is a young African American boy living on a busy city block with brownstone buildings. He's walking down the block clearly with a goal in mind. But that doesn't stop him from talking to all his neighbors. It's clearly a tightly knit and safe block given Jo's youth. It's refreshing to see a positive portrayal of a childhood in the city, especially for a child of color.

He and his neighbors talk in slang until Jo comes to an old man. It's his grandfather. Then things become more formal. It was nice to see the counterpoint to the slang. It's a more subtle way to convey the same message as Don't Say Ain't, namely that there's a time and a place for different levels of formality.

Best of all though, the Grandfather, after having a completely formal conversation with Jo starts talking to him in slang too. It brought back fond memories of when my own grandmother would let her hair down a little and talk in slang, or admit to liking rock and roll, and so forth. The connection with Jo and his Grandfather feels genuine to me.

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