Cover image for Blues journey
Blues journey
Myers, Walter Dean, 1937-2014.
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Holiday House, 2003.
Physical Description:
1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations ; 23 x 29 cm
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR LG 5.0 0.5 67817.
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS3563.Y48 B58 2003 Juvenile Non-Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



The blues aren't all sad. There's joy in the blues as well as heartbreak. Love discovered. Love lost. Love just around the corner.

In this beautiful tribute to the poetry and art of the blues, renowned author Walter Dean Myers collaborates with his son, award-winning illustrator Christopher Myers, in a true masterpiece of picture book creation filled with struggle, grief, hope, joy, and love.

Each original blues-style verse on a page calls out a response from the artist in striking tones of brown, black, white, and blue. Together, father and son weave an enchanting story of the creation of the blues through the experiences of African Americans from the end of slavery through the beginning of the civil rights movement.

This book is for older children who love music and their parents who will appreciate the layered sophistication of the striking artwork and interplay between art and text.

Includes an author's note explaining the birth and development of the blues, a timeline of blues milestones, and an explanatory glossary of terms in the blues. Together this content deepens the appreciation for the blues as a truly original art form.

A Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award Honor book.
An ALA Notable book.

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

Gr. 5^-8. The blues' deceptively simple rhyme scheme tracks the deeper feelings of lives that have been bruised. In this picture book for older readers, Myers offers blues-inspired verse that touches on the black-and-blue moments of individual lives. His son Christopher's images, which illustrate the call-and-response text, alternate between high spirited and haunting. Myers begins with a very necessary introduction to the history of the blues that includes an explanation of the rhyme scheme. Still, the level of sophistication necessary for kids to get into the book is considerable: "Strange fruit hanging, high in the big oak tree / Strange fruit hanging high in the big oak tree / You can see what it did to Willie, / and you see what it did to me." Myers' original verse is unsettling if young people know the reference from the Billie Holiday song, but unclear if they don't ("strange fruit" is defined in the glossary). The accompanying illustration, though it's one of the less inspired ones, helps clarify things--a boy walks in a crowd carrying a sign saying, "yesterday a man was lynched." But there's no cohesion between the spreads, and the next one features a blues singer at a mike: "The thrill is gone, but love is still in my heart . . . I can feel you in the music and it's tearing me apart." Much of Myers' poetry here is terrific, by turn, sweet, sharp, ironic, but it's the memorable collage artwork, executed in the bluest of blue ink and brown paper, that will draw readers first. Once inside the book, some children will immediately hear the songs the poetry sings; others will have to listen more closely. --Ilene Cooper

Publisher's Weekly Review

This handsomely designed volume by the father-and-son creators of Harlem succeeds as an introduction to the blues genre but lacks a story line to unify the disparate verses. The author begins with a history of the blues, tracing its roots to Africa and describing its metamorphosis in America, as freed captives began to explore lyrics fully and white musicians became influenced by the musical form. He explains that the first two lines represent a call, and the third is the response. In one of the most effective spreads, Walter Dean Myers subtly alters the repetition of the call to chilling effect: "My landlord's cold, cold as a death row shave/ My landlord's so cold, cold as a death row shave/ Charged fifty cents for a washtub, three dollars for my grave." Opposite, Christopher Myers uses blue ink and white paint on brown bags to depict two boys looking out one side of a window, one peering fearfully around the corner, the other holding up his hand, perhaps in protection, perhaps in an attempt to escape. The sides of the window and a collage screen create a sense of imprisonment. But a few juxtapositions are jarring, such as a portrait of a boy reading with a stately, elderly woman appearing over his shoulder, while the verse seems to indicate a romantic sentiment ("I hollered to my woman, she was across the way/ I said I loved her truly, she said,/ `It got to be that way' "). All ages. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 2-6-Father/son talents Walter Dean Myers and Christopher Myers teamed up to create a beautiful exploration of musical blues (Holiday House, 2003). The elder wrote and Christopher illustrated this deeply symbolic tale. A collection of blues verse follows an in-depth introduction that studies the historical roots and the musical elements of blues. The call-and-response text is brought alive by narrator Richard Allen's enthusiastic rendition of the text, accompanied by simple blues instrumentation. Although this title will provide a wonderful introduction to blues music, it will be appreciated by those who have thoroughly studied the subject as well. The illustrations and text, sometimes paired with a hauntingly lonely harmonica, explore such subjects as poverty, lynching, slavery. and injustice. One verse reads: "Heard the top deck groaning, yes, and the ocean roar/ Heard my brother crying till I couldn't hear no more/ O Lord, O Lord/ Ain't it hard when your brother's crying/ And you don't hear him anymore?" The subjects are serious and sensitive, but perhaps the first verse in this collection ultimately sums up the books intention: "Blues, blues, blues/ Blues, what you mean to me?/ Are you my pain and misery/or my sweet, sweet company?" Appropriate for group or individual listening, this title is best utilized with adult guidance to help with the blues glossary in the back of the book. An essential addition to school and public library collections.-Kirsten Martindale, formerly Menomonie Public Library, WI (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Blues--what you mean to me?Are you my pain and misery,or my sweet, sweet company? Excerpted from Blues Journey by Walter Dean Myers All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.