Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Clayton Byrd Goes Underground

31448946Williams-Garcia. Clayton Byrd Goes Underground.
May 9th 2017, Amistad
ARC from Publisher at ALA

Clayton loves to hang out with his grandfather, Cool Papa, and play the blues at Washington Square Park with his grandfather's band. Clayton desperately wants to have a solo, but Cool Papa tells him he's not quite ready. The two do this whenever Clayton's mother has a long nursing shift, since she is not thrilled with Clayton taking part in these activities. Since Cool Papa frequenly was on the road when she was growing up, Clayton's mother is very bitter about the music. When Cool Papa passes away unexpectedly, she acts on this bitterness by selling or giving away every last possession of his, although Clayton manages to keep a blues harp and a hat his grandfather favored. Since he was so close to his grandfather, Clayton takes his death very hard, even though his father visits more and tries to distract him. Eventually, he becomes so angry at his mother that he runs away from home and falls in with a street gang that performs on the subway. The boys in the gang are not nice to him, and do a lot of vaguely criminal things, so hanging around with them eventually land him in jail. When his mother has to pick him up there, she is sure that it is the result of his grandfather's influence, but his father points out that he needs more help to get over the death of his grandfather.
Strengths: Cool Papa is right up there with my favorite fictional grandfathers. Not only do the two make music together, but Cool Papa makes fish sticks and spaghetti, reads to Clayton at night, and is generally a loving and supportive presence in his life. I also liked that his father plays a prominent role even though he doesn't live with Clayton. This is a great length for middle grade, and moves very quickly.
Weaknesses: This is not only very sad, but the way that Clayton's mother deals with the death is very dysfunctional, and Clayton makes dangerous choices.
What I really think: I'm debating this one. I'm a bit worried that the 1980s style cover is going to make this one a hard book to encourage children to pick up. I love Williams-Garcia's work, but the sadness and bad choices in this one were a bit much. It got a starred review in School Library Journal.

Crowder, Melanie. Three Pennies
May 2nd 2017 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Marin has been in a foster home since she was four and her mother abandoned her. She has never given up hope that her mother will return, and carries a piggy bank and a copy of the I Ching with her to remind her of her mother. When her new social worker, Gilda, tells Marin that her mother has terminated parental rights, freeing Marin to be adopted, Marin decides that she will do everything she can to make herself unpleasant. She is placed with Lucy Chang, a doctor who has suffered her own losses but who feels that taking in a child would be the right thing to do. She is unsure of her own abilities, but willing to work with Marin to make a home for the two of them. Marin still wants to find her mother, and manages to get enough information from Gilda's files to hunt down a friend of her mother's who provides her with information she thinks will allow her to find her mother-- on her birthday, her mother scatters wishes off a seaside cliff near her San Francisco home. Marin is determined to go there to confront her mother. Her timing is bad, however; there is an earthquake, and Lucy is panicked and sets off to find her with Gilda. Will Marin be able to put her past behind her and move on?
Strengths: This is beautifully crafted... think Newbery possibilities. It is a spare and moving novel of one girl's search for family told in an intriguing way. I was really interested in Marin's story, so this was a quick read. Not surprised that other titles by this author are in verse. I liked the inclusion of the earthquake. It was very realistic.
Weaknesses: The parts with the owl were odd, and there were a lot of coincidences. I was also a bit disturbed by the portrayal of Marin's foster homes that were only taking in children in order to make the rent.
What I really think: People who liked Pax and Sometimes a Fox will adore this lyrical, introspective novel of love and loss. I was intrigued by Marin's story, but the style was rather odd, and I don't think it will resonate with my students.

Ms. Yingling Ms. Yingling

1 comment:

  1. Clayton Byrd Goes Underground has such an engaging cover, yet I don't think I'm ready for the sadness in this. Thanks for the review.