Cover image for The blues of Flats Brown
The blues of Flats Brown
Myers, Walter Dean, 1937-2014.
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Holiday House, [2000]

Physical Description:
1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations ; 26 cm
To escape an abusive master, a junkyard dog named Flats runs away and makes a name for himself from Mississippi to New York City playing blues on his guitar.
Reading Level:
AD 510 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR LG 3.8 0.5 40211.

Reading Counts RC K-2 3.1 2 Quiz: 21560 Guided reading level: NR.
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PIC. BK. Juvenile Fiction Central Closed Stacks
PIC.BK. Juvenile Fiction Picture Books

On Order



A runaway junkyard dog makes a name for himself playing blues guitar.

Author Notes

Walter Dean Myers was born on August 12, 1937 in Martinsberg, West Virginia. When he was three years old, his mother died and his father sent him to live with Herbert and Florence Dean in Harlem, New York. He began writing stories while in his teens. He dropped out of high school and enlisted in the Army at the age of 17. After completing his army service, he took a construction job and continued to write.

He entered and won a 1969 contest sponsored by the Council on Interracial Books for Children, which led to the publication of his first book, Where Does the Day Go? During his lifetime, he wrote more than 100 fiction and nonfiction books for children and young adults. His works include Fallen Angels, Bad Boy, Darius and Twig, Scorpions, Lockdown, Sunrise Over Fallujah, Invasion, Juba!, and On a Clear Day. He also collaborated with his son Christopher, an artist, on a number of picture books for young readers including We Are America: A Tribute from the Heart and Harlem, which received a Caldecott Honor Award, as well as the teen novel Autobiography of My Dead Brother.

He was the winner of the first-ever Michael L. Printz Award for Monster, the first recipient of the Coretta Scott King-Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement, and a recipient of the Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults. He also won the Coretta Scott King Award for African American authors five times. He died on July 1, 2014, following a brief illness, at the age of 76.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Ages 5^-8. Mississippi junkyard dog Flats Brown loves singing and playing the blues with his beloved old friend Caleb. When mean owner A. J. Grubbs decides to make them fighting dogs, the friends hit the road. In Memphis, Flats records a record that's so successful it gets Grubbs on his tail, but when Grubbs tracks him down in New York, it turns out Flats' blues can draw out and comfort the hidden hurt in even the coldest hearts. Steeped in the oral tradition, this adventure becomes a road trip through an important musical genre. Myers beautifully conveys the blues' unique roots and the way the music bestows comfort, catharsis, and healing. The narrator's vernacular, rhythmic and easy-rolling, has the feel of a timeless legend, and the vibrant, jewel-toned illustrations, dominated by moody, bittersweet, tonal variations of blue, are filled with rich detail, expressive characters, and fantastic landscapes. Flats and Caleb are a delightful canine duo who teach much about friendship and the joy and comfort music can bring. Words and music for the poignant "The New York City Blues" are included. While it's Flats' and Caleb's song, when it's sung by children, it will become theirs, too, showing how blues at its best is a participatory experience, universal in message and emotional impact, and transcending time and place. For another book about music's many gifts, turn to Gwendolyn Battle-Lavert's recent picture book The Music in Derrick's Heart [BKL F 15 00]. --Shelle Rosenfeld

Publisher's Weekly Review

An exceptionally talented junkyard dog gets his due in Myers's (Monster; Harlem) picture-book tribute to the blues. Though Flats would love to just play the blues on his guitar and sing all day, his owner, A.J. Grubbs, plans to throw Flats and his other dog, Caleb, into the vicious fighting ring. The two pooches flee and eventually land in Memphis, where Flats records a hit record. All the fame and attention paid to his dog gets Grubbs angry and he's soon on Flats's trail. Grubbs tracks Flats to a New York City blues club where, finally, the dog's music reaches the bitter man's heart. Myers's shaggy fantasy has the slow-and-easy pacing of a lazy Southern afternoon. His colorful phrases and dialect (Flats in New York City is "as out of place as a three-legged skunk at a Georgia hoedown") evoke the Mississippi and Tennessee settings, and his music industry scenarios will provide adults with a good chuckle. In Laden's (The Night I Followed the Dog) dusky-pastel world, the anthropomorphic Flats sports sunglasses and jeans, blending right in with other performers and nightclub folk. She shifts her palette to brighter hues when the canine shirks the junkyard for the big cities. Youngsters will likely take to this canine crooner. Ages 4-8. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

K-Gr 4-"This here's the story of Flats Brown, the blues playingest dog you ever heard of." He was born in a Mississippi junkyard owned by a man so mean that he didn't even like himself. All the pup wants to do is play guitar. Grubbs wants to turn him into a fighting dog, so Flats and his friend Caleb, an old dog with a good heart, flee. Pursued by the junkman, he is forced to say good-bye to Caleb, who becomes too tired to run. Flats's adventures take him from playing for pennies on the street to wealth and fame in New York City. There, he finally vanquishes his foe with a song called "The Gritty Grubbs Blues" that "touched Grubbs deep inside." Flats heads back South to play guitar on the waterfront with Caleb because he "-was a blues playing kind of dog, not a filthy rich kind of dog." Story and pictures work well together to create a bluesy atmosphere. Pastel illustrations feature variations of blue to depict the sky, the murky inside of clubs, and the Midnight Special that takes the dog to New York. Laden also uses perspective with dramatic effect. The night train is a long diagonal snaking across two pages, the buildings of New York tilt and loom, and Grubbs's sad face fills the page as he weeps to the blues. While readers may not understand the music, they will respond to this soulful story. Words and music for "The New York City Blues" are appended.- Karen James, Louisville Free Public Library, KY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.