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BLUES JOURNEY by Walter Dean Myers Kirkus Star


by Walter Dean Myers & illustrated by Christopher Myers

Age Range: 6 - 11

Pub Date: March 15th, 2003
ISBN: 0-8234-1613-5
Publisher: Holiday House

A powerful union of text and image transmutes itself into a work of art—and it explains what the blues is, besides. Walter Dean Myers takes fragments of blues songs and creates an arc of poetry with them. His son, Christopher, using only brown paper, blue ink, and white paint, creates a visual counterpoint to the words that sometimes reflects them and other times goes to a different but related place. In his one-page introduction, the elder Myers describes the blues as coming from the encounter between the five-tone scale and the call-and-response singing of African music, and the American idiom. This volume comes as close as you can in print to reproducing the feeling of the blues, even as Chris Raschka did for Bird in Charlie Parker Played Be Bop (1992), and does it in a way that small children can grasp. “Hollered to my woman, / she was across the way” shows a boy and his grandmother hovering over an open book; “Misery loves company, / blues can live alone” shows two boys sitting on a curb, one turns from the other. “If you see a dollar, tell it my full name” faces a portrait of a young man against a wrought iron fence. He holds his shoe up to his face and looks steadily through the hole in its sole to gaze at the viewer. Myers fils wields his limited palette in extraordinary ways: figures are blue and blue-black and brown, they have a sculptural presence against dark or light backgrounds, and their postures respond strongly to the words. “Blues, what you mean to me? / Are you my pain and misery, / or my sweet, sweet company?” Children will see both replies in the pictures and in the sweet dark rhythm of the words. (Picture book. 6-11)