Skip to:Content
|
Bottom
Cover image for Clayton Byrd goes underground
Title:
Clayton Byrd goes underground
ISBN:
9780062215918
Edition:
First edition.
Physical Description:
166 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
Reading Level:
710 L Lexile
Geographic Term:
Added Author:
Summary:
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.
Holds:

Available:*

Library
Material Type
Call Number
Item Available
Copies
Status
Searching...
Book J FICTION WIL 1 1
Searching...
Searching...
Book J FICTION WIL 1 2
Searching...
Searching...
Book J FICTION WIL 1 2
Searching...
Searching...
Book J FICTION WIL 1 2
Searching...
Searching...
Book J FICTION WIL 1 2
Searching...
Searching...
Book J FICTION WIL 1 1
Searching...
Searching...
Book J FICTION WIL 1 1
Searching...

On Order

Summary

Summary

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.

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 Youth/Teens Winner * Chicago Public Library Best Books * Boston Globe Best Books of 2017

"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)


Author Notes

Rita Williams-Garcia graduated from Hofstra University. She has written several books including Blue Tights, Every Time a Rainbow Dies, Fast Talk on a Slow Track, One Crazy Summer, and No Laughter Here. Like Sisters on the Homefront was named a Coretta Scott King Honor Book. She won the PEN/Norma Klein Award. She currently teaches at the Vermont College of Fine Arts in the Writing for Children and Young Adults Program. She won the Coretta Scott King awards in 2016 with her title Gone Crazy in Alabama in the author category.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 6

Publisher's Weekly Review

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. (May) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Horn Book Review

Electric blues sparks jumped out into the night when Cool Papa Byrd plays his guitar in Washington Square Park, and all grandson Clayton wants is to be waved in for a twelve-bar solo on his blues harp (harmonica); to be a true bluesman among bluesmen. Clayton and Cool Papa are Byrds of a feather in their love of the blues, and to Clayton, Cool Papa is a grandfather, blues master, mentor, and best friend all in one. But when Cool Papa dies suddenly, Clayton is miserable. He decides to run away and join Cool Papas band, the Bluesmen, but has to take the subway to find them. In an unforgettable scene, Clayton, armed with his blues harp and wearing Cool Papas brown porkpie hat, enters the underworld of the New York City subway system--a child Orpheus--where he spends a good portion of the book meeting interesting characters and performing. As in One Crazy Summer (rev. 3/10), Williams-Garcia writes an appealing, realistic story with frequent elegant turns of phrase (Clayton stepped onto the subway platform, a fast- and slow-moving jigsaw puzzle with live pieces entering, exiting, milling, and turning). The third-person voice helps to keep Claytons 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. An authors note outlines the history of the blues and provides insight into the origins of this fine novel. dean schneider (c) Copyright 2017. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Booklist Review

*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.--Cooper, Ilene Copyright 2017 Booklist


New York Review of Books Review

This novel's young hero, an aspiring bluesman, finds a new beat as he learns to live with the loss of his grandfather. CLAYimperfect people who raise us. Music links generations in this novel. Williams-Garcia lets her characters introduce readers with modern musical tastes to the heart of the blues. Cool Papa is all about guitars with names (Wah-Wah Nita, First Guitar), porkpie hats, and hanging on the word man. He's about B. B. King and Billie Holiday, and about making sure his grandson knows the better blues renditions of school glee-club standbys like "You Are My Sunshine." "It was like Cool Papa said," Clayton tells us. "Happy people need the blues to cry, and sad people need the blues to laugh." But Clayton soon discovers a doorway into the modern offspring of the blues: In the subway, he meets a ragtag group of boys who are subway dancing for money and beatboxing because they have no batteries in their boom box. As different as Clayton is from the boys (he describes them as "almost feral") he finds a way to thread his blues harp around their hard beats and dance moves until a tentative, if risky, alliance is formed. For me, the novel finds its groove here, offering young readers a chance to see the continuum of black American music. Backtrack to the early 1980s and you find that beatbox and multivocalism emerged largely because the equipment for percussion beats was too expensive. Young musicians turned their own bodies into instruments. Today, beatbox is everywhere, of course, underpinning hip-hop and rap, and thriving on the street, the subway, in parks, in clubs, on the airwaves. And like its grandfather, the blues, it invites collaboration, fierce competition, and sharing the solo spotlight - but only when the musician is ready with the right skill to step in. What makes you ready? Musical knowhow, at a minimum, but also, we see, genuine feeling earned through love and loss. 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 avoids the damaging tropes we often attach to stories about black boys. His father may not live with Clayton, but he is neither absentee nor indifferent to his son. Juanita Clayton works long shifts, but Clayton's needs are met and his life is stable. And yes, Clayton gets into trouble in this novel, but he is not a deeply troubled boy. Surly at times and struggling to find the balance of being both respectful and cool, he reminded me of my own son at 12, back when his greatest outrage was having a tough mother and no real means of calling his own shots. There are no short cuts in growing up, as Clayton finds out, neither musically nor as a young man. There are no easy ways to sidestep the sad losses that are part of life. Williams-Garcia shows us once again that the only answer is to lean into those burdens, name them, and bend them into our own score. MEG MEDINA is the author of "Burn Baby Burn" and "Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass."


School Library Journal Review

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. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Kirkus Review

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 Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Go to:Top of Page