Garland, Michael. Daddy Played the Blues . Michael Garland, Illus. Picture Book. Tilbury House, 08/2017. pp. $17.95. 978-0-88448-588-9. HIGH ADDITIONAL. GRADES K-3.
Six-year-old Cassie squeezes into the backseat of her family’s old jalopy, holding Daddy’s precious guitar across her lap. The year is 1936, and the family is bound for a better life in Chicago, where Daddy will work six days a week in the stockyards and fill his time off singing the blues. This fictional but historically correct story is set during the Great Migration, a period when thousands of African Americans left the southern states in search of a better life away from share cropping and Jim Crow laws. It is a tribute to the rich tradition of the blues, particularly the Chicago Blues style. The story is interjected with blues lyrics, which are accompanied by illustrated interpretations of the songs. Garland uses a method called digital woodblock to create vibrant, luminescent pictures that resemble scratchboard technique, which fill each page. The energy and motion in the illustrations support the musical spirit described in the text. Cassie’s story is told in first-person narrative, which helps make the content accessible for young readers, as does the large, simple text. An eight-page, fully illustrated author’s note adds context for the story and provides information about blues history and the popularization of the genre. Back matter includes song credits, a map depicting the Great Migration, and short bios and portraits for 11 pioneers of the Chicago blues style. The story would make an excellent read-aloud for younger students, while the endnotes will appeal to upper elementary students.
Sarah Jo Zaharako, Head Royce School