Clayton Byrd Goes Underground

by Rita Williams-Garcia (Author) Frank Morrison (Illustrator)

Clayton Byrd Goes Underground
Reading Level: 4th − 5th Grade

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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Publishers Weekly

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 Cityas Washington Square Park, and he longs to play his own solo: aTwelve bars. That was all.a Cool Papa is Claytonas favorite relative and ally, and his sudden death throws Clayton into an emotional spiral, especially as his motheras unresolved feelings toward her father cause her to sell off his possessions. Newbery Honora winner Williams-Garcia (One Crazy Summer creates a memorable cast and sketches complex, nuanced relationships, especially between Clayton and his mother, contrasting Claytonas closeness with his grandfather to the complicated absence of Claytonas own father. Claytonas 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 grandfatheras treasured hat. Itas 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 2017 Publishers Weekly Used with permission.

School Library Journal

Starred 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 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

"Like a classic blues riff, Clayton Byrd Goes Underground is deceptively simple yet profoundly deep. It wails, rattles, and roars in unexpectedly heartfelt and joyous ways."—G. Neri, Coretta Scott King Honor-winning author of Yummy and Tru & Nelle
Rita Williams-Garcia
Rita Williams-Garcia (rita-williamsgarcia.squarespace.com) is the celebrated author of novels for young adults and middle grade readers. Her most recent novel, Clayton Byrd Goes Underground, won the 2018 NAACP Image Award for Literature for Youth/Teens and was a 2017 National Book Award Finalist. Williams-Garcia is most known for her Coretta Scott King Author Award-winning Gaither Sisters trilogy that begins with One Crazy Summer, recipient of the Newbery Honor and the Scott O'Dell Prize for Historical Fiction. She is a three-time National Book Award Finalist. She holds a BA in liberal arts from Hofstra University and an MA in English from Queens College at CUNY. She lives in Queens with her husband. You can follow her on Twitter @Onecrazyrita.

Chelsea Clinton is the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World; She Persisted Around the World: 13 Women Who Changed History; She Persisted in Sports: American Olympians Who Changed the Game; Don't Let Them Disappear: 12 Endangered Species Across the Globe; It's Your World: Get Informed, Get Inspired & Get Going!; Start Now!: You Can Make a Difference; with Hillary Clinton, Grandma's Gardens and Gutsy Women; and, with Devi Sridhar, Governing Global Health: Who Runs the World and Why? She is also the Vice Chair of the Clinton Foundation, where she works on many initiatives, including those that help empower the next generation of leaders. She lives in New York City with her husband, Marc, their children and their dog, Soren. You can follow Chelsea Clinton on Twitter @ChelseaClinton or on Facebook at facebook.com/chelseaclinton.

Gillian Flint (gillianflint.com) is an illustrator who has a passion for painting in watercolors. She has been drawing and creating characters for as long as she can remember. Her work has been published in the USA, the UK and Australia. In her spare time she enjoys reading and gardening at her home in the UK. You can follow her on Instagram @gillianflint_illustration.

Alexandra Boiger (alexandraboiger.com) has illustrated nearly twenty picture books, including the She Persisted series by by Chelsea Clinton; the popular Tallulah series by Marilyn Singer; and the Max and Marla books, which she also wrote. Originally from Munich, Germany, she now lives outside of San Francisco, California, with her husband, Andrea; daughter, Vanessa; and two cats, Luiso and Winter. You can follow Alexandra on Instagram @alexandra_boiger.
Classification
Fiction
ISBN-13
9780062215932
Lexile Measure
710
Guided Reading Level
-
Publisher
Quill Tree Books
Publication date
May 08, 2018
Series
-
BISAC categories
JUV039050 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | Emotions & Feelings
JUV039030 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | Death & Dying
JUV013030 - Juvenile Fiction | Family | Multigenerational
JUV011010 - Juvenile Fiction | People & Places | United States - African-American
JUV031040 - Juvenile Fiction | Performing Arts | Music
Library of Congress categories
Death
African Americans
Families
Family life
Grandparent and child
Grandfathers
Bereavement
Blues (Music)
Bereavement in children

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