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)
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“Narrator Adam Lazarre-White’s musical rhythms enhance the author’s lyricism. His soft tones express the intergenerational tenderness between Clayton and his grandfather…Lazarre-White’s even tone captures Clayton’s circumspect temperament. His occasionally dissonant emotional notes reflect Clayton’s quiet grief in a way that is honest and poignant.”
“Shows us once again that the only answer is to lean into [our] burdens, name them, and bend them into our own score.”
— New York Times Book Review
“[A] lovely novel, poignant as a blues song.”
— Buffalo News
“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.”
— Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Clayton’s love of his grandfather and his music is wonderfully drawn…Strong characterizations and vivid musical scenes add layers to this warm family story.”
— Kirkus Reviews (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.”
— Booklist (starred review)
“An appealing, realistic story with frequent elegant turns of phrase.”
— Horn Book (starred review)
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About Rita Williams-Garcia
Rita Williams-Garcia is the author of the Newbery Honor–winning novel One Crazy Summer, which was also a winner of the Coretta Scott King Award, a National Book Award finalist, and winner of the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction. She is also the author of several other novels for young adults, including Jumped, a National Book Award finalist; Every Time a Rainbow Dies, a Publishers Weekly Best Children’s Book; Fast Talk on a Slow Track, an ALA Best Books for Young Adults; and Like Sisters on the Homefront, a Coretta Scott King Honor Book. She is on the faculty at the Vermont College of Fine Arts in the program for writing for children and young adults.
About Adam Lazarre-White
Adam Lazarre-White, best known for starring as Nathan Hastings on The Young & The Restless, also gained notoriety on Living Single, Girlfriends, Will & Grace, The Parkers, and in the Emmy Award–winning miniseries The Temptations. His other television and film credits include Heroes, Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, Deliver Us from Eva, Ocean’s 13, All about You, and Forgiveness. Lazarre-White has many credits as a voice artist on commercial radio, television, and film. He graduated from Harvard and then returned home to New York to train at Terry Schreiber Studios and continue his work on LA stages, notably in Romeo & Juliet, The Trojan Women, and Neil Labute’s This Is How It Goes.