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Tar Beach

Last updated Monday, January 25, 2021

Author: Faith Ringgold
Date of Publication: 1991
ISBN: 0517580306
Grade Level: 2nd    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Dec. 2020

Synopsis: "Ringgold recounts the dream adventure of eight-year-old Cassie Louise Lightfoot, who flies above her apartment-building rooftop, the 'tar beach' of the title, looking down on 1939 Harlem. Part autobiographical, part fictional, this allegorical tale sparkles with symbolic and historical references central to African-American culture. The spectacular artwork resonates with color and texture. Children will delight in the universal dream of mastering one's world by flying over it. A practical and stunningly beautiful book." Horn Book.

Note to readers:
•  The book is fairly short, so a picture walk is recommended
•  P. 17 of the book has a photo of the actual story quilt and gives detailed information about Ringgold’s Tar Beach art piece.

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  Where do you think Tar Beach is located?
•  Who or what do you see in the background of the cover? Have you seen a bridge or driven over a bridge before?
•  What does the border on the cover of the book look like to you?


•  floodlights - a large, powerful light, typically one of several used to illuminate a sports field, a stage, or the exterior of a building
•  skyscrapers - a very tall building of many stories
•  possession - an item of property; something belonging to one
•  girders - a large iron or steel beam or compound structure used for building bridges and the framework of large buildings
•  union - an organized association of workers formed to protect and further their rights and interests; a labor union

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  What place (real or imaginary) do you find magical?
•  Do you ever play pretend and imagine that your bedroom or home is a different place? If yes, what do you imagine the place to be?
•  Do you dream of having a superpower? If yes, what kind of superpower?
•  Do you like ice cream? What is your favorite flavor?
•  Have you seen a patchwork quilt before? Do you see that it is composed of different prints and fabrics?

Craft ideas:
•  Create your own story quilt. Cut scrap paper (newspapers, magazines, or pieces of construction paper) into squares and glue/tape them around the edge of a piece of paper to create a border. Draw a picture of you and your family at your favorite place in the middle.
•  Create a holiday card or ornament (snowflake! can be demo’d by R2K volunteer)
•  Check our craft ideas on Pinterest!

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don't have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!