Little Man, Little Man

A Story of Childhood

Little Man, Little Man

Book Pages: 120 Illustrations: Yes Published: August 2018

African American Studies and Black Diaspora, Literature and Literary Studies > Fiction

Four-year-old TJ spends his days on his lively Harlem block playing with his best friends WT and Blinky and running errands for neighbors. As he comes of age as a “Little Man” with big dreams, TJ faces a world of grown-up adventures and realities. Baldwin’s only children’s book, Little Man, Little Man celebrates and explores the challenges and joys of black childhood.

Now available for the first time in forty years, this new edition of Little Man, Little Man—which retains the charming original illustrations by French artist Yoran Cazac—includes a foreword by Baldwin’s nephew Tejan "TJ" Karefa-Smart and an afterword by his niece Aisha Karefa-Smart, with an introduction by two Baldwin scholars. In it we not only see life in 1970s Harlem from a black child’s perspective, but we also gain a fuller appreciation of the genius of one of America’s greatest writers.


"Pulled from the past, this is a brilliant exploration of black childhood with profound emotional depth, drawn from the grace and struggles of community and reinforcing the truth that no one knows Harlem like Baldwin." — Kirkus Reviews

"You’re getting everything through Baldwin’s keen insights and distinctive voice. And it really is a beautiful read. The descriptions alone are worth the price of admission.... I think that maybe this is the book that kids need today.... [T]he book has aged amazingly well.... A new classic. Looks like the world finally caught up with it at last." — Elizabeth Bird, School Library Journal

(Starred Review) "French artist Cazac’s scribbly-line spreads and vignettes, tinted with watercolor, seem charged with electricity. Through luminous prose and fine observation, readers come to care deeply about TJ and his friends, and they’ll wish their story didn’t end so soon." — Publishers Weekly

 "At 42, Little Man, Little Man has aged well. What might have been permanently dismissed . . . has instead matured into a timely representation of an urban African American childhood, presented in 'the black vernacular style of [Baldwin's] Harlem neighborhood,' made accessible once more to eager new audiences." — Terry Hong, Shelf Awareness

"A rare primary source snapshot of a particular place and time." — Ms Yingling Reads

“Now that we have a children’s book, we can start people off even younger. It’s a book that young people can read or have read to them, but it’s also a new Baldwin for adults.”
  — Jacqueline Woodson, quoted in the, New York Times

"The watercolor images of Harlem — which took shape from Baldwin’s recollections, filtered through a French artist’s imagination — have a dreamlike, impressionist quality that can be almost jarring when juxtaposed with the sometimes menacing elements TJ confronts in his neighborhood." — Alexandra Alter, New York Times

"Written for his nephew and out of print for 40 years, Baldwin's account of 4-year-old TJ's life in Harlem retains its power to enchant." — People

"The watercolor images were created by Yoran Cazac, whom Baldwin met while living in the south of France, but who had never been to America. They are lovely and kinetic and very much worth a look—plus, you know, James Baldwin!" — Emily Temple, Literary Hub

"A vivid perspective that is both moving and enriching . . . It is a story of childhood, from a particular time and place, captured in colloquial language that is freighted at once with innocence, pain and tenderness." — Meghan Cox Gurdon, Wall Street Journal

"A book to study and discuss at length. . . . The story’s profound depth stems from the implication that childhood innocence is a myth. Baldwin implies, as he does in his other work, that claiming innocence to racism (by adults and children alike) is a poor excuse for avoiding the difficult work required to grapple with it. Baldwin’s story of childhood forces the reader to grapple." — Jenny Gapp, School Library Connection

"Dismissed as a footnote in Baldwin’s mighty canon, Little Man, Little Man is now getting the attention it was denied when it first appeared over 40 years ago, and like much of Baldwin’s work, it feels oddly right on time. America is far more interested in the lives of its black folk than ever before—proof alone in those studies previously cited. If this country is ever to reckon with how racism has shaped its culture then its people should begin by listening to James Baldwin. And in the case of Little Man, Little Man, the younger the better." — Lester Fabian Brathwaite, New Now Next

"Children can follow the story and find meanings in it, but it will speak perhaps even more powerfully to adults." — Maria Russo, Children's Book Editor, New York Times Book Review, on nytbooks Instagram post

"A must-read for fans of Baldwin, for those with interest in historical perspectives, and for those seeking a compelling story that will endure." — Ricki Ginsberg, Unleashing Readers

"I will have to reread Little Man, Little Man several times to begin to digest Baldwin’s intentions. It is completely unlike anything I’ve ever read. I found it to be challenging, fascinating, and—ultimately—entertaining." — Lu and Bean Read

"Cazac’s lively drawings not only convey the emotional energy of the children’s urban world, but also complement Baldwin’s rhapsodic celebration of blackness as a spectrum." — Ayten Tartici, Slate

"This slice-of-life portrait of an African American community, with loose, evocative illustrations by French abstract artist Cazac, may appeal to mirrors-and-windows-seeking middle-graders-and-up." — Elissa Gershowitz, Horn Book

"Revisited forty years after its publication, Little Man, described by Baldwin as 'a celebration of the self-esteem of black children,' emerges as a pioneering work of children’s literature, driven by the protagonist’s perspective on the world around him, rather than plot. . . . Recent books . . . owe a debt to Little Man, which puts African American children at its centre, rather than placing them silently in the background." — Douglas Field, TLS

"Re-read today in light of the contemporary resurgence of interest in Baldwin’s novels and essays, particularly his meditations on black English and police brutality, Little Man, Little Man brings to life many of Baldwin’s arguments as it dissolves rigidly drawn lines between children’s and adult literature. . . . Cazac’s dreamlike art . . . through its rich colors and salmagundi of both smiling and brooding faces, [captures] a nuanced vision of black childhood that, alongside Baldwin’s text, makes Little Man, Little Man stand out as utterly unlike anything in Baldwin’s corpus—or, even, American literature more broadly—that came before or after." — Gabrielle Bellot, NYR Daily

"Spirited paintings full of color and personality of Harlem in the 1970's accompany the story of TJ, his family and neighbors as they go about daily life in a celebration of the challenges and joys of a particular urban, black childhood. It is delightful!" — Craig Seasholes, Books 'n Bytes blog

"One of the few children's books that gives us a window into the realities of what life was like for Harlem's black children in the mid-1970s. . . . A very honest book about childhood at that time and a wonderful addition to the growing body of books for African American readers young and old." — Alex Baugh, Randomly Reading blog

"Accenting the author's narrative yarn, illustrator Yoran Cazac’s jazz-infused and impressionist pictures radiate the rich, vibrance of their urban village. From the rhythm in its voice to the colors of its imagery, Little Man, Little Man is not simply a picture book, rather, it is an authentic, masterfully crafted love letter about urban childhood that is worthy of a read by children and adults alike." — Valerie Williams-Sanchez, Valerie's Vignettes blog

"The new edition of Little Man, Little Man has rightly been celebrated as part of a resurgence of cultural interest in James Baldwin. If the book’s long dormancy provides a cautionary tale of cultural amnesia, Boggs and Brody’s important work of recovery serves as a reminder of the radical force of the past. As children’s and young adult literatures express a richer-than-ever diversity of young life, even as the field continues to confront the persistence of white supremacy, today is indeed a timely opportunity to take pleasure and lessons from change-making African American children’s books of the 1970s." — Amy Fish, Public Books

“The prospect of reading an out-of-print children’s book by none other than James Baldwin himself is as tantalizing an invitation as I have ever been offered. And . . . it does not disappoint! Baldwin baptizes us into a world that most who read this book will never know and we will all forever be the better for it! The voice and vernacular of TJ, the story’s child protagonist, will challenge the reader. Neither the native idioms of speech nor the world as seen through TJ’s eyes are meant by Baldwin to engender a sense of comfort in the reader. Instead he insists that we ‘come correct’ and open ourselves to an experience of seeing the world anew through the eyes of another. Which of course is not only the basis of compassion but classic Baldwin as well.” — LeVar Burton


Availability: In stock
Price: $22.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

James Baldwin (1924–1987), the world-famous novelist, playwright, essayist, critic, and public intellectual, was the grandson of a slave. He grew up in Harlem and was the oldest of nine children. He spent three years while in his teens as a preacher and briefly worked on the New Jersey railroad. In the 1940s he met his mentor, painter Beauford Delaney, and moved to Greenwich Village. In 1948 he left the United States and moved to Paris. His first novel—Go Tell It on the Mountain—was published in 1953, and over the next ten years he wrote many essays and several of his best-known works, including Notes of a Native Son, Giovanni’s Room, and The Fire Next Time. During the 1960s Baldwin split his time between Istanbul and the United States, where he was active in the civil rights movement. In 1971 he moved to Saint Paul-de-Vence, a village in the south of France. There he wrote, among other works, Little Man, Little Man, which he dedicated to Beauford Delaney; and the novel If Beale Street Could Talk, which he dedicated to Yoran Cazac.

Yoran Cazac (1938–2005) was a French artist who first gained attention for his abstract paintings in Paris in the 1960s. He moved to Rome, where he became the protégé of the painter Balthus, director of the French Academy. Cazac met Baldwin in Paris in 1959 through their mutual friend, painter Beauford Delaney. They rekindled their friendship in the 1970s, when Baldwin asked Cazac to provide the illustrations for Little Man, Little Man. Baldwin contributed an essay for the catalog of Cazac’s 1977 exhibition at the Chateau de Maintenon. Cazac's final solo exhibition was held at the Kiron Gallery in Paris in 2003.

Nicholas Boggs is Clinical Assistant Professor of English at New York University.

Jennifer DeVere Brody is Professor of Theater and Performance Studies at Stanford University.

Tejan Karefa-Smart, James Baldwin’s nephew, is a photographer and digital media artist who lives in Paris, France.

Aisha Karefa-Smart, James Baldwin’s niece, is an author who lives in Washington, D.C.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Foreword / Tejan Karefa-Smart
Introduction / Nicholas Boggs and Jennifer DeVere Brody
Little Man, Little Man
Afterword / Aisha Karefa-Smart
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing
Additional InformationBack to Top