Clayton Byrd Goes Underground

By: Rita Williams-Garcia

Clayton feels most alive when he’s playing music with his grandfather, Cool Papa Byrd, and the band of Bluesmen—he can’t wait to join them.  But then the unthinkable happens. Author’s note.

ISBN: 9780062215918

JLG Release: Aug 2017


Sensitive Areas: No sensitive areas
Topics: Grandfathers and grandsons , Blues music , Harmonicas , Family life , New York City , Subways , Single-parent families , Mothers and sons , Musicians

$14.75


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Awards & Honors

Booklist Top 10 Diverse Fiction for Older and Middle Readers: 2018
ALSC Notable Children’s Books 2018, Middle
Summer 2017 Kids’ Indies Next List, Ages 9 to 12
CSMCL Best Multicultural Children’s Books of 2017
National Book Award 2017 Longlist
Kirkus Reviews Best Books of 2017, Middle Grade
Booklist Top 10 Books for Youth, Arts
Publishers Weekly’s; Best Books of 2017, Middle Grade
School Library Journal’s Best Books of 2017, Middle Grade and Chapter Books
Horn Book Fanfare List 2017, Fiction
Chicago Public Library Best Books of 2017, Fiction for Older Readers

Praise & Reviews

Starred or favorable reviews have been received from these periodicals:

Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, Book List*, The Horn Book Magazine*, Kirkus Reviews*, Publishers Weekly*, School Library Journal*

School Library Journal

[STARRED REVIEW]
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
[STARRED REVIEW]
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

Horn Book

[STARRED 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 feath
[STARRED 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 Papa’s 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 Papa’s 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, 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 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. An author’s note outlines the history of the blues and provides insight into the origins of this fine novel. dean schneider

Book Details

ISBN

9780062215918

First Release

August 2017

Genre

Fic

Dewey Classification

Trim Size

8 1/4" x 5 1/2"

Page Count

176

Accelerated Reader

Level 0; Points: 0;

Scholastic Reading Counts

Level 0; Points: 0;

Lexile

Level 710L

Format

Print Book

Edition

Hardcover edition

Publisher

Amistad

Potentially Sensitive Areas

No sensitive areas

Topics

Grandfathers and grandsons, Blues music, Harmonicas, Family life, New York City, Subways, Single-parent families, Mothers and sons, Musicians,

Standard MARC Record

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Cover Art

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