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Clayton Byrd Goes Underground
Cover of Clayton Byrd Goes Underground
Clayton Byrd Goes Underground
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National Book Award Finalist * Kirkus Best Books of 2017 * Horn Book Best Books of 2017 * Publishers Weekly Best Books of 2017 * School Library Journal Best Books of 2017 * NAACP Image Awards Nominee *...
National Book Award Finalist * Kirkus Best Books of 2017 * Horn Book Best Books of 2017 * Publishers Weekly Best Books of 2017 * School Library Journal Best Books of 2017 * NAACP Image Awards Nominee *...
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Description-

  • National Book Award Finalist * Kirkus Best Books of 2017 * Horn Book Best Books of 2017 * Publishers Weekly Best Books of 2017 * School Library Journal Best Books of 2017 * NAACP Image Awards Nominee * Chicago Public Library Best Books * A Boston Globe Best Book of 2017

    From beloved Newbery Honor winner and three-time Coretta Scott King Award winner Rita Williams-Garcia comes a powerful and heartfelt novel about loss, family, and love that will appeal to fans of Jason Reynolds and Kwame Alexander.

    Clayton feels most alive when he's with his grandfather, Cool Papa Byrd, and the band of Bluesmen—he can't wait to join them, just as soon as he has a blues song of his own. But then the unthinkable happens. Cool Papa Byrd dies, and Clayton's mother forbids Clayton from playing the blues. And Clayton knows that's no way to live.

    Armed with his grandfather's brown porkpie hat and his harmonica, he runs away from home in search of the Bluesmen, hoping he can join them on the road. But on the journey that takes him through the New York City subways and to Washington Square Park, Clayton learns some things that surprise him.

    "This slim novel strikes a strong chord."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

    "This complex tale of family and forgiveness has heart." —School Library Journal (starred review)

    "Strong characterizations and vivid musical scenes add layers to this warm family story." —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

    "An appealing, realistic story with frequent elegant turns of phrase." —The Horn Book (starred review)

    "Garcia-Williams skillfully finds melody in words." —Booklist (starred review)

 

Awards-

About the Author-

  • Rita Williams-Garcia's Newbery Honor-winning novel, One Crazy Summer, was a winner of the Coretta Scott King Award, a National Book Award finalist, the recipient of the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction, and a New York Times bestseller. The sequel, P.S. Be Eleven, was also a Coretta Scott King Award winner and an ALA Notable Children's Book for Middle Readers. She is also the author of six distinguished novels for young adults: Jumped, a National Book Award finalist; No Laughter Here, Every Time a Rainbow Dies (a Publishers Weekly Best Children's Book), and Fast Talk on a Slow Track (all ALA Best Books for Young Adults); Blue Tights; and Like Sisters on the Homefront, a Coretta Scott King Honor Book. Rita Williams-Garcia lives in Jamaica, New York, is on the faculty at the Vermont College of Fine Arts in the Writing for Children & Young Adults Program, and has two adult daughters, Stephanie and Michelle, and a son-in-law, Adam.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from April 3, 2017
    This slim novel strikes a strong chord. Clayton Byrd revels in playing the blues harp (harmonica) with his grandfather, Cool Papa Byrd, and other blues musicians in New York City’s Washington Square Park, and he longs to play his own solo: “Twelve bars. That was all.” Cool Papa is Clayton’s favorite relative and ally, and his sudden death throws Clayton into an emotional spiral, especially as his mother’s unresolved feelings toward her father cause her to sell off his possessions. Newbery Honor–winner Williams-Garcia (One Crazy Summer) creates a memorable cast and sketches complex, nuanced relationships, especially between Clayton and his mother, contrasting Clayton’s closeness with his grandfather to the complicated absence of Clayton’s own father. Clayton’s grief causes dustups at school and church, and the stakes and tension rise considerably as Clayton meets a band of teenage subway performers, who get him to join their show then steal his grandfather’s treasured hat. It’s a holistic portrait of a family in pain, a realistic portrait of grief and reconciliation, and a reminder that sadness and loss are wrapped up in the blues. Ages 8–12.

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from March 15, 2017
    An African-American youngster is happiest when he can play his harmonica with his bluesman grandfather until tragedy removes the music from his life.Clayton Byrd idolizes his grandfather, a popular bluesman. But his mother disapproves of her father's music and of Clayton's joining Cool Papa Byrd and other bluesmen in the park. Clayton's father tries to make a place in his life, but the things he likes to do cannot compare to the music. When Cool Papa Byrd dies suddenly, Clayton's pain is almost unbearable, made worse when his mother gets rid of the records and instruments that Clayton expected would be his way of maintaining that special connection. School becomes as difficult as home, and counseling with the church pastor doesn't help. Hoping to find a place with the remaining bluesmen, he meets up with a group of street boys making their way with beat music and dance. When he plays his harmonica and the crowd responds, the boys form an uneasy alliance that is threatened when the police intervene. Clayton's love of his grandfather and his music is wonderfully drawn, as is his grief when he loses them. His mother's unresolved issues with her own childhood inform the story appropriately for young readers. The conjunction of two African-American music genres, both born of struggle, is a colorful backdrop for this lively story. Strong characterizations and vivid musical scenes add layers to this warm family story. (Fiction. 8-12)

    COPYRIGHT(2017) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • School Library Journal

    Starred review from May 1, 2017

    Gr 4-6-Clayton Byrd has some complicated relationships in his family. His strict, demanding mother refuses to marry his father, but allows him to be a presence in Clayton's life. Clayton adores his grandfather, "Cool Papa," though his mother does not. Cool Papa nurtures Clayton in many ways-cooking his favorite foods, reading to him each night, and teaching him the harmonica and the blues. He's allowed to tag along with Cool Papa when he and his band, the Bluesmen, busk in Washington Square Park. When Cool Papa dies unexpectedly, in a scene that is understated and heartbreaking, Clayton is devastated. His mother not only sends Clayton back to school too soon but sells or gives away all of Cool Papa's belongings, some of which were promised to Clayton. School becomes complicated when Clayton is assigned to read the very book that Cool Papa read to him every night. Clayton's plea for another book is ignored. When his frustration and grief become overwhelming, he cuts school and takes the subway, intent on finding and joining the Bluesmen. Williams-Garcia packs a lot of story in this slim book. Clayton's an appealing character, and his anger and loss are palpable. The neighborhood scenes are so vivid, one does not need to be a denizen of New York City to appreciate them. VERDICT This complex tale of family and forgiveness has heart. A first purchase.-Brenda Kahn, Tenakill Middle School, Closter, NJ

    Copyright 2017 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus Reviews (starred review) ★ "Clayton's love of his grandfather and his music is wonderfully drawn, as is his grief when he loses them.... Strong characterizations and vivid musical scenes add layers to this warm family story."
  • Booklist (starred review) ★ "With the precision of a surgeon, Williams-Garcia lifts and examines layers of Clayton's hurt and anger: the loss, but also the inability of his dismissive mother to understand... The book's through line, though, is the music, and Garcia-Williams skillfully finds melody in words."
  • Publishers Weekly (starred review) ★ "This slim novel strikes a strong chord... [A] holistic portrait of a family in pain, a realistic portrait of grief and reconciliation, and a reminder that sadness and loss are wrapped up in the blues."
  • Horn Book (starred review) ★ "An appealing, realistic story with frequent elegant turns of phrase. The third-person voice helps to keep Clayton's story from becoming self-absorbed, as he learns to navigate the literal and figurative underworld and then find his way back to the everyday world of family, friends, and school."
  • School Library Journal (starred review) ★ "Williams-Garcia packs a lot of story in this slim book... This complex tale of family and forgiveness has heart."
  • G. Neri, Coretta Scott King Honor-winning author of Yummy and Tru & Nelle "Like a classic blues riff, Clayton Byrd Goes Underground is deceptively simple yet profoundly deep. It wails, rattles, and roars in unexpectedly heartfelt and joyous ways."
  • Daniel José Older, author of Shapeshifter "Set to the low-down howl of the blues and cool thump of hip-hop, this story is so full of heart and soul it boogies right off the page. Read it right now!"
  • Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books "Williams-Garcia writes with keen sympathy about a boy who lost the key adult figure in his life and his rage at his mother's making the loss worse."
  • Meg Medina, writing in the New York Times Book Review "Fans of Jason Reynolds and Kwame Alexander will find comfort in the portrayal of Clayton and his struggle to become a young man...Williams-Garcia shows us once again that the only answer is to lean into [our] burdens, name them, and bend them into our own score."
  • Buffalo News "This lovely novel, poignant as a blues song, explores a child's experience of profound grief, and how lonely that can be when adults don't comprehend the enormity of the loss."

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