|Clayton Byrd goes underground|
Author: Williams-Garcia, Rita
When his blues musician grandfather dies and his mother forbids him from playing the blues, Clayton runs away to New York City and its subway system to find his late grandfather's blues band. But on his underground journey through New York's subways, Clayton has a few things to learn.
Download a Teacher's Guide
|Accelerated Reader Information:|
Interest Level: MG
Reading Level: 4.40
Points: 4.0 Quiz: 189070
|Reading Counts Information:|
Interest Level: 3-5
Reading Level: 4.40
Points: 8.0 Quiz: 70981
Kirkus Reviews (+) (03/15/17)
School Library Journal (05/01/17)
Booklist (+) (03/15/17)
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (00/05/17)
The Hornbook (+) (00/05/17)
Full Text Reviews:
Booklist - 03/15/2017 *Starred Review* Cool Papa Byrd and the blues: the two are intertwined for Clayton, and gigs with Papa’s band, the Bluesmen, are their special excursions. His mother, Papa’s daughter, doesn’t know, because she hates the blues, and Clayton sometimes thinks she hates her father. One night, Cool Papa dies sitting in his chair, and it’s up to the boy to figure out how to live life without him—and still keep the music close. Williams-Garcia’s books always go deep inside the souls of their characters, but this one also digs down to find their anger. After her father’s death, Ms. Byrd gets rid of all Cool Papa’s things, even his beloved guitars, despite Clayton’s anguish. The furious boy decides to take his blues harp and run away to find the Bluesmen. What he finds instead is a group of wild kids on the subway, beatboxing their way into a few coins and trouble, pulling him along. 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. Yet the book also smartly looks at Ms. Byrd’s anger toward a father whose affection for music outdid his affection for her. The book’s through line, though, is the music, and Williams-Garcia skillfully finds melody in words. - Copyright 2017 Booklist.
School Library Journal - 05/01/2017 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 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.