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Children’s Book by Langston Hughes Resurfaces After Decades

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Always books. Never boring.

A children’s book titled The Sweet and Sour Animal Book, written by Langston Hughes and illustrated by Elmer W. Brown, has resurfaced in Cleveland, OH and is being given a platform it never had.

Hughes and Brown met in the ’30s in Cleveland’s Karma House, the oldest Black theater in the United States. Once their friendship had developed, they sought to write a children’s book that corrected the racist narrative so much of children’s literature of the day perpetuated. The Sweet and Sour Animal Book was born, with its bright, colorful pictures of animals and descriptive verses by Hughs.

In the ’80s, Brown’s widow donated the book to the Cleveland Artists Foundation, now ARTneo. Sabine Kretzschmar, ARTneo’s CEO, also directs the Cleveland Museum of Art’s high school curation program, and this year students have been assigned with curating an exhibition for Brown’s and Hughes’ book. The exhibit brings the book’s whimsy and character to life, and has an accompanying reading room. It’s currently open at the ARTneo galleries in Cleveland, OH, and is running through July 24. Click here to learn more.

Find more news and stories of interest from the book world in Breaking in Books.