Clayton Byrd Goes Underground by Rita Williams-Garcia

Rita Williams-Garcia packs an intese wallop in these 166 pages. Really though, I should have expected nothing less from the author of the Gaither Sisters series. 

Clayton Byrd loves his grandfather, the blues guitarist, Cool Papa Byrd, more than anything or anyone. His mother on the other hand, carries a lot of pain and anger because he was rarely there when she was a child. When he dies, she inadvertently takes her feelings out on Clayton. When Clayton starts having difficulty at school, he can't talk to her about it because of this. To punish him she takes his harmonica away from him and refuses to let him have anything to do with the blues.

In response, Clayton runs away from home in search of The Bluesmen, a group his grandfather played with. Unfortunately, his plan doesn't work out as he expected and he ends up in serious trouble before it is over.

Rita Williams-Garcia really knows how to write. Her characters are so authentic and nuanced you suspect you could run into them on the street. Even the secondary characters have depth to them. I became attached to Clayton and his grandfather within the first few pages. Their love for each other is so tangible it makes the grief more pronounced. Readers of all ages will connect with Clayton's anguish and despair. They will connect to his complicated anger at his mother. She is a complicated, flawed character who has her son's best interests at heart, however misguided her actions may be. Clayton's father, who seems almost absent as a consequence of these actions, is ready and waiting to step up when he is needed.

I appreciated the notes at the end of the book where Williams-Garcia discusses how she became immersed in the blues as a child and her process for how this story evolved. The merging of blues and modern hip hop and rap music is portrayed in those scenes when Clayton runs away. 

I highly recommend this book, but you don't have to take my word for it. Watch this video it you need more persuading. 


Also, if you haven't read Williams-Garcia's Gaither Sisters series, you should get those and read them.

#IMWAYR JUNE 26, 2017

#IMWAYR time again, when readers share what they have been reading and find out what others have been up to in the past week. Kathryn hosts the adult version of this meme at Book Date. Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers host the kidlit rendition. Whatever you are looking forward to in your next great read, these are fabulous places to start your search.

There I was, whining about if summer was ever going to arrive. Then, the next day, I woke up to sweltering heat and am complaining that it's too hot to sleep. It isn't easy being a Vancouverite. 

Fortunately, no matter the weather I have discovered that it is possible to snuggle babies and read at the same time. In fact, the two activities are made for each other. I'm excitedly looking forward to tomorrow when my family will be together and I will get to hold both of my grandbabies in my arms at the same time! It will be the perfect birthday gift. Ok, so I also want Sherman Alexi's new memoir, You Don't Have To Say You Love Me


See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng

The Art of the Possible: An Everyday Guide to Politics by Edward Keenan & Julie McLaughlin


5 stars
The Sound That Jazz Makes by Carole Boston Weatherford & Eric Velasquez (Illustrator)

Eric Velasquez' illustrations take this book into another kind of reading experience. Weatherford's poetry provides the framework of history, but the art brings it home and makes it all very real. I dare anyone to read this and not feel a barrage of emotions from fear, to anger, to hope, and to pride.

5 stars
The Art of the Possible: An Everyday Guide to Politics by Edward Keenan & Julie McLaughlin (Illustrations)

I started writing this regular weekly blogpost, and got carried away writing about this book. The next thing I knew, it was a review all of its own.
I highly recommend this book for readers of all ages who are interested in politics. If you aren't, then you should most definitely read it.


4 stars
March: Book One by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin & Nate Powell

If only history was always this interesting and entertaining to learn. I knew next to nothing about John Lewis, except that he is a politician and loved and preached to chickens as a boy. I was fascinated to learn the behind the scenes details of the lunch counter sit ins and the development of SNCC. My only complaint is that the text is very small and was a challenge to read. Hopefully new editions will be released in larger formats.


5 stars
See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng

I am enchanted by this book and these characters. At the same time, I was often terrified as the eleven year old Alex Petroski headed off across the country all by himself to go to a rocket festival. There were so many things that could go very wrong, but instead, Alex charms everyone he meets up with along the way. All of them end up being there for him when he needs them most. 

3 stars
Cavern of Secrets (Wing & Claw #2) by Linda Sue Park, Jim Madsen (Illustrations) & Graham Halstead (Narrator)

I'm fond of, and impressed by the complexity in this series. It's got talking animals which I know kids will love. I like the focus on herbal apothecary and the idea that plants can have almost magical properties. Raffa and his friends decide to return home from where they have been hiding all winter. For Raffa, this is a very dangerous endeavour. It's a good thing he has lots of friends and animals to help him. I'm not crazy about cliffhanger endings like the one here, but I know it will make readers want to come back for more.

5 stars
Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig

If I could only remember who turned me onto this book, I would thank you profusely
Ginny Moon is a character who will stay with me for a long time. She's an autistic, developmentally delayed, fourteen year old who was removed from her abusive, drug addicted birth mother when she was nine. She wasn't able to bring her baby doll with her, and no one understands why it is so important to her. Even though she now lives in a safe home, she keeps on trying to go back to her birth mother to make sure her baby doll will be ok.
This book will resonate with fans of The Curious Incident of the Dog In the Night. It might even be better.

4 stars
Lucky Broken Girl by Ruth Behar & 

I seem to be reading a lot of historical fiction these days that takes me back to the time of my youth. Does this means that I am older than I think I am?
Ruthie Mizrahi is another one of those characters you can't help but adore. Her family recently moved from Cuba to New York City. While she is very smart, she ended up in the dumb class until her English improved enough. Just as things are starting to look up for her, there is a terrible accident that leaves her in a body cast. By the time this experience is over, Ruthie is no longer the same person. 

4 stars
Miss Ellicott's School for the Magically Minded by Sage Blackwood

Owl's bowels! Sage Blackwood does it again in this fantastic adventure novel. Chantel Goldenrod, a gifted student, regularly causes her instructors grief at the school for young magical maidens. Seriously, who needs deportment and obedience anyway? When the teachers all disappear and nefarious things begin happening in their walled city, it's up to Chantel and her friends to figure it out and save them all. It is impossible to not love this spunky heroine inhabiting a book filled with fire breathing dragons, magic and lots of humor! 
Sage Blackwood's new book is a great story, but even if it wasn't, it would be worth the read just to have acquired a new literary expletive.


I'm still working on Bill Bryson's At Home: A Short History of Private Life. I'm listening to an adult title, The Color of Our Sky by Amita Trasi. I've just started Clayton Byrd Goes Underground by Rita William-Garcia. 


As usual, I have a lot of library books to get to. I'm really looking forward to getting to Glass Beads by Dawn Dumont, one of my favorite Canadian indigenous authors. 


#MUSTREADIN2017 13/36


50 Books by Canadian Indigenous Authors 13/50

Chocolate Lily (CL) 51/51

Goodreads Reading Challenge 204/333

See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng

This book is sure to leave you filled with hope for our species. 

Alex lives in Rockville Colorado. He is a precocious eleven year old, who is at least thirteen years when it come to responsible. He is the caretaker for his mother who 'has quiet days.' His much older brother lives in Los Angeles, but pays their bills for them. Alex is crazy about rockets and space. He's even built a rocket that he plans to send out into the universe. It will carry his golden ipod filled with information about his life, so that other life forms will know something about earth. This book is composed of these reflections. 

When Alex and his dog, Carl Sagan, head off to SHARF, a rocket festival near Albuquerque, New Mexico, he expects to be picked up at the train station by other people and carpool with them to the site. In spite of his train being 2 1/2 hours late, it all works out because someone he met on the train has a friend meeting him and they are on their way to the same festival.

Alex is so open and friendly that he charms his way into many hearts at the event. Even though his rocket crashes almost before it is off the ground, he is able, with the help of one of the organizers, to look forward to building a better one next time.

Through Ancestry, an online family history resource, he discovers that someone with the same name as his dead father lives in Las Vegas. He fantasizes that this is his father, not really dead, but suffering from amnesia, and gets it into his head to go and see him. From there he plans to visit his brother. His new friends are headed that way and he manages to catch a ride with them. By the time his journey is over, Alex ends up learning much more about his family than he could have imagined.

As an adult, there were times when I was terrified for Alex. Thankfully he is lucky enough to connect up with basically kind people. Sometimes they make mistakes, but ultimately, it is their goodness that shines through. There is a deeply philosophical aspect to this novel that fills us with important lessons about life, family and friendship. It reminds us that world is filled with wonder if we open our hearts and minds to it.

The Art of the Possible: An Everyday Guide to Politics by Edward Keenan & Julie McLaughlin (Illustrations)

This is a thorough, thoughtful exploration of politics.

It begins by proclaiming that, "You are a politician," and then continues on to show us how this is true. Near the end, Keenan pulls it all together in a chapter on citizenship and the power of knowledge. In between the book looks at why we need politics, unpacks different levels and types of government, explains the difference between policy and process and shows the reader how to understand different kinds of arguments. He examines different kinds of conflicts and the problems with polarization. There is even a section on selective perception and confirmation bias.

Keenan explains that you don't have to be grown up to engage in politics, and then highlights a number of young people who have changed their world for the better without having the ability to vote. 

I especially appreciate that Keenan focuses so much on how important it is to be a knowledgeable citizen as well as how to become one. My suspicion, given the state of truthism in North America today, is that we are sorely lacking people like this. I have a few adult friends who I would like to give copies of this to. 

There are all kinds of text features that make this a stellar resource. Julie McLaughlin's illustrations enhance and add some humour to the text. The case studies provide real life examples of the issues being discussed and make the ideas easier to understand. 

Definition boxes are set out in coloured boxes. There are all kinds of graphic organizers to make the information more accessible. The sidebar in the section on arguments recaps and reinforces how to think critically about issues. The book also includes a glossary, a bibliography (called sources) an index and a page of acknowledgements.

Every school library in North America should have a number of copies. Since many adults will also find it informative, copies should be in both the adult and children's sections of public libraries.  Everyone can learn something from this book. I discovered where the terms left wing and right wing come from. If you don't already know this, you will have to read the book yourself to find out.