Thursday, September 25, 2014

Blues Journey

by Walter Dean Myers
illustrated by Christopher Myers
Myers, Walter Dean. Blues Journey. Ill. by Christopher Myers. NY: Holiday House, 2003. 
ISBN 0823416135

Plot Summary
Just like the title, this book is a telling of the blues journey through collage and poetry. While most of the poems/lyrics and even illustrations seem sad, they are telling a story and you may have to look a little deeper to find the love within.

Critical Analysis
This book was created by a father (author) and son (illustrator) team. Walter D. Myers starts off the book with an informational page on the history of the blues and how it has developed. The "call and response" element of the singing form of blues is explained in on this page which is very helpful to the reader because a good majority of the poems use "call and response."

Christopher Myers' original illustrations were created with blue ink, white paint, and brown paper bags. The illustrations are authentic to the African American culture and complement the emotions of the text. Readers can feel the powerful emotions of the blues prose through the illustrations as well as the text. 

The back of the book provides more helpful information with a timeline of the history of the blues from 1865 to the 1960s. There is also a glossary of blues terms used in throughout the book. I found this to be extremely helpful in understanding the significance of the words with the blues era. Teachers, librarians, and parents will also find this helpful when using the book as an instructional tool. 
Review Excerpts
  • "Although this title will provides a wonderful introduction to blues music, it will be appreciated by those who have thoroughly studies the subject as well. The illustrations and text, sometimes paired with a hauntingly lonely harmonica, explore such subjects as poverty, lynching, slavery, and injustice." -School Library Journal
  • "Much of Myers' poetry here is terrific, by turn, sweet, sharp, ironic, but it's the memorable collage artwork, executed in the bluest of blue ink and brown paper, that will draw readers first. Once inside the book, some children will immediately hear the songs the poetry sings; other will have to listen more closely." -Booklist

Introduce students to other books by Walter Dean Myers
  • Jazz (9780823421732)
  • Looking Like Me (9781606840016)
  • Harlem (9780590543408)
After reading the book as a class, and learning about the call and response technique have the students try to create their own blues poetry.

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