Born McKinley Morganfield, the boy who would become guitarist Muddy Waters embraced the blues from an early age, even if the grandmother who raised him didn’t approve: “Last I checked, you can’t eat the blues for breakfast.” Debut author Mahin’s dialogue is invented, but it paints a vivid picture of Waters’s determination to make it as a blues musician, eventually leaving his sharecropping life in Mississippi for Chicago. Like Waters’s music after landing in the Windy City, Turk’s artwork is electric—wild strokes of marker and oil pastel vibrate with energy. And Mahin’s equally vivid writing will almost certainly send readers after Waters’s catalogue: “It felt honest and raw. It felt real. It felt like the past and the future and the country and the city all rolled into one.” Ages 4–8. Author’s agent: Minju Chang, Bookstop Literary. Illustrator’s agent: Brenda Bowen, Sanford J. Greenburger Associates. (Sept.)
A New York Times Best Illustrated Book
An NPR Best Book of the Year
A Bulletin Blue Ribbon Book
A Parents’ Choice Gold Award Winner
A picture book celebration of the indomitable Muddy Waters, a blues musician whose fierce and electric sound laid the groundwork for what would become rock and roll.
Muddy Waters was never good at doing what he was told. When Grandma Della said the blues wouldn’t put food on the table, Muddy didn’t listen. And when record producers told him no one wanted to listen to a country boy playing country blues, Muddy ignored them as well. This tenacious streak carried Muddy from the hardscrabble fields of Mississippi to the smoky juke joints of Chicago and finally to a recording studio where a landmark record was made.
Soon the world fell in love with the tough spirit of Muddy Waters. In blues-infused prose and soulful illustrations, Michael Mahin and award-winning artist Evan Turk tell Muddy’s fascinating and inspiring story of struggle, determination, and hope.
* "The words and pictures here mix exuberance with melancholy. Mahin’s words have a beat all their own, capturing the lows and highs with poetic verve. Turk’s watercolor, ink, and collage artwork fills pages, exploding with a neon intensity—the equivalent of a dynamic guitar riff . . . Read the book, then get kids the music.
Mahin’s text is engaging, rhythmic, soulful, and written to reflect the blues that influenced Muddy Waters. . . . Turk’s expressionistic mixed-media illustrations, many of them double-page spreads, aptly convey the emotions associated with Muddy Waters’s music.
* “Turk’s mixed-media and collage artwork roils with waves of darkness and explosive color, even as it models compositional control, and Muddy is always defined with an electric hue that keeps him in sharp focus. . . . Mahin’s lyricism and rolling cadence make the text a readaloud delight.
K-Gr 3—This picture book biography tells the story of the early life of McKinley Morganfield (1913–83), aka Muddy Waters, an American blues legend. Born in rural Mississippi and raised by his Grandma Della, Waters was interested in music from an early age and improvised his own homemade instruments. He faced opposition throughout, from disapproving family members to sharecropper bosses, but resisted and persevered, as he was "never good at doing what he was told." Eventually Waters moved to Chicago, where he helped develop the unique "Chicago Blues" style, merging the popular jazz of the day with traditional Delta blues from the South. The story is lyrically told with a lilting cadence by debut author Mahin. His descriptions are vivid (the "sound of the delta, buzzing and mad like an angry hornet's nest looking for a fight"), and his explanations of blues music are simple and accessible. Turk's mixed-media illustrations leap off the page. His folk-art images weave together painting with newspaper clipping collages, pastel lines, and ink prints to create a truly recognizable style, rich with color and texture. Music is portrayed in abstract patterns and zigzag lines, and the soul of the blues sings out through the pages. VERDICT A worthy addition to biography collections, shedding light on an important figure in U.S. music history.—Clara Hendricks, Cambridge Public Library, MA
Mahin traces Muddy Waters' path from his Mississippi Delta roots to legendary status as a Chicago blues giant.McKinley Morganfield, raised by Grandma Della, is nicknamed Muddy for the Mississippi mud he plays in. Even more than church music, he loves the stuff "they didn't play on Sundays"—Delta blues. Muddy soaks up such influences as slide guitarist Son House and plays what instruments he finds or makes. A fieldworker by day, he buys a guitar and plays juke joints at night. Mahin dramatizes Waters' departure for Chicago as a last-straw disagreement with a field boss and uses a refrain—"But Muddy was never good at doing what he was told"—at seminal junctions. Waters responds to Chicago's jazz-infused blues scene not by rejecting Delta blues, but by literally amplifying it: "Muddy plugged in, turned on, turned up, and out came the sound of the Delta, buzzing and mad like an angry hornet's nest." Turk's breathtaking pictures fuse historical newspaper clippings, paint, printer's ink, oil pastels, and china marker. His symbolic palette shifts from sun-seared, white-gold cotton, red earth, and undulating river-blue to Chicago's urbane, neon-lit green, blue, and black. (Muddy retains his Delta-born, underpainted red contours throughout.) Motifs like the purple of Della's dress repeat dynamically. A note on the copyright page states that both lyrics and dialogue are invented. This poetic celebration of Muddy Waters' musical truth is lifted still higher by Turk's extraordinary art. (author's note, suggested books and recordings) (Picture book. 6-10)
|Publisher:||Atheneum Books for Young Readers|
|Product dimensions:||11.10(w) x 11.20(h) x 0.50(d)|
|Age Range:||4 - 8 Years|
- 2017 Parents' Choice Award for Picture Books
- 2018 Ezra Jack Keats Award Winners
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- Blues & Jazz - Kids
- Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Award Winners
- Jazz & Blues Musicians - Kids Biography
- New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Books of 2017
- Popular & Rock Musicians - Kids Biography