Jimmy's Rhythm & Blues: The Extraordinary Life of James Baldwin

by Michelle Meadows (Author) Jamiel Law (Illustrator)

Jimmy's Rhythm & Blues: The Extraordinary Life of James Baldwin
Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade

Celebrate James Baldwin’s one-hundredth birthday anniversary with the first-ever illustrated biography of this legendary writer, orator, activist, and intellectual.

Before he became a writer, James “Jimmy” Baldwin was a young boy from Harlem, New York, who loved stories. He found joy in the rhythm of music, family, and books.

But Jimmy also found the blues, as a Black man living in America.

When he discovered the written word, he discovered true power. Writing gave him a voice. And that voice opened the world to Jimmy. From the publication of the groundbreaking collection of essays The Fire Next Time to his passionate demonstrations during the civil rights movement, Jimmy used his voice fearlessly.

Michelle Meadows, author of Brave Ballerina and Flying High, introduces young readers to the great American novelist, essayist, poet, playwright, orator, and artist James Baldwin, who, with the fire of his pen, dared a nation to dream of a more equitable world filled with love. Brought to life with warm illustrations by Jamiel Law, Jimmy’s Rhythm & Blues chronicles the life of an incredible visionary who left an indelible mark on American literature and history.

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Meadows retraces the career of a brilliant novelist and essayist.

Kirkus Reviews

A high-quality introduction to an important figure in American literature.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review

"Home is brick brown,/ Harlem, uptown,/ trains rumbling by" begins this fittingly poetic biography of writer James Baldwin (1924-1987). Cast in neutral tones and lustrous blues and browns, Law's art opens on Baldwin caring for younger siblings in a cramped Harlem apartment, where he reads all he can despite his preacher father's objections. Though Baldwin faces bullying and prejudice from an early age, he finds support in those who believe in his abilities, and begins to write. Moving first to Greenwich Village, then to Paris, he works "to capture/ the voice of his ancestors, stand up for oppressed people,/ and push the world to change." Incorporating hue-based lines to introduce narrative beats ("Paris is fog gray"), Meadows slowly unveils Baldwin's many facets--burgeoning writer; activist; Black, queer icon--across an elegantly rendered work about a man "with compassion in his heart and a pen in his hand." Back matter includes an author's note. Ages 4-8. (Jan.)

Copyright 2023 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

Jimmy's Rhythm & Blues captures the warmth and brilliance of Baldwin's writing and the tenderness and depth of his soul. Meadows's poetic prose hits all the right notes. — Renée Watson, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author

[A] joyful look at Black literary excellence. — Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

Michelle Meadows
MICHELLE MEADOWS is the author of numerous children's books, among them the Beginner Book How to Love a Pony, and the rhymed biographies Flying High: The Story of Gymnastics Champion Simone Biles and the award-winning Brave Ballerina: The Story of Janet Collins--the first African American principal dancer at the Metropolitan Opera House. Michelle lives near the beach in Delaware with her husband and son.

SAWYER CLOUD is a self-taught freelance artist living in Madagascar, her native country. Sawyer loves sunny days and music. If not drawing, she is singing out loud in her room, wearing her favorite fairy costume, and sharing that moment with her online friends. She lives on her island with her family and her two pets, Arya the dog and Potter the cat.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Publication date
January 20, 2024
BISAC categories
JNF018010 - Juvenile Nonfiction | People & Places | United States - African-American
JNF007110 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Biography & Autobiography | Social Activists
JNF025210 - Juvenile Nonfiction | History | United States/20th Century
JNF069000 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Diversity & Multicultural
JNF007150 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Biography & Autobiography | LGBT
Library of Congress categories

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