Clayton Byrd Goes Underground by Rita Williams-Garcia

Clayton Byrd Goes Underground

5 Starred Reviews!"This slim novel strikes a strong chord"—Publishers Weekly (starred review)"This complex tale of family and forgiveness has heart.” —School Library Journal (starred review)"Strong characterizations and vivid musical scenes add layers to this warm family story.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)“An appealing, realistic story with frequent elegant turns of p...

Title:Clayton Byrd Goes Underground
Author:
Rating:
ISBN:0062215949
Number of Pages:176 pages

Clayton Byrd Goes Underground Reviews

  • Brandy Painter

    Clayton is an excellent main character. He is grieving the death of his grandfather and trying to navigate all those emotions while his mom is dealing with it in exactly the opposite way he needs. The inter-generational struggles here and how we carry the baggage of disappointing relationships into new ones is explored in a way that the target audience can take in. I think this could have been a truly extraordinary book, but (and I can't believe I'm saying this) it was too short. The last quarte

    Clayton is an excellent main character. He is grieving the death of his grandfather and trying to navigate all those emotions while his mom is dealing with it in exactly the opposite way he needs. The inter-generational struggles here and how we carry the baggage of disappointing relationships into new ones is explored in a way that the target audience can take in. I think this could have been a truly extraordinary book, but (and I can't believe I'm saying this) it was too short. The last quarter of the book is packed with too much action and emotion with a rushed resolution that fives the reader no time to process it.

  • Mary Ann

    Young African-American Clayton Byrd yearns “to be a true bluesman among bluesmen,” playing blues harp alongside his grandfather Cool Papa Byrd and his band. When Cool Papa dies suddenly in his sleep, Clayton grieves deeply, his loss amplified by his mother’s anger toward her father’s blues playing days away from the family. Adam Lazarre-Whites narration resonates deeply, bringing depth and emotion to this touching story.

    Right from the first page, Rita Williams-Garcia weaves the power of blues th

    Young African-American Clayton Byrd yearns “to be a true bluesman among bluesmen,” playing blues harp alongside his grandfather Cool Papa Byrd and his band. When Cool Papa dies suddenly in his sleep, Clayton grieves deeply, his loss amplified by his mother’s anger toward her father’s blues playing days away from the family. Adam Lazarre-Whites narration resonates deeply, bringing depth and emotion to this touching story.

    Right from the first page, Rita Williams-Garcia weaves the power of blues through each fiber of her story, writing with the same "rhythm and slow-burning funk cooked into the blues" that she describes. She riffs on the lyrics of blues, but keeps it focused on young Clayton's story.

  • Molly Dettmann

    Clayton Bryd's Cool Papa Byrd, his grandfather who loves the Blues as much as he loves Clayton, passes away unexpectedly leaving Clayton heartbroken and his mother angrily selling all his possessions. While dealing with his grief, Clayton tries to bury himself in his music, while his mother forbids it. While both are grieving in their own way, it takes a secret trip "underground" for them to start to understand each other and heal together.

    Ugh! This book had so much promise and while I think it

    Clayton Bryd's Cool Papa Byrd, his grandfather who loves the Blues as much as he loves Clayton, passes away unexpectedly leaving Clayton heartbroken and his mother angrily selling all his possessions. While dealing with his grief, Clayton tries to bury himself in his music, while his mother forbids it. While both are grieving in their own way, it takes a secret trip "underground" for them to start to understand each other and heal together.

    Ugh! This book had so much promise and while I think it dealt with a lot of complex issues in such a short novel, it could have been better and overall it was just way too short. Just as some of those issues were being addressed, then the book was over. The author's note did a nice job of talking about the musical inspiration of the novel, but I would have rather had another 30-40 pages of character development.

  • Laura Harrison

    This book breaks my heart. There was so much potential. I loved every moment of this title until Clayton's grandfather dies. Clayton gets in trouble for his incredibly poor behavior in school (he falls asleep during required class reading of a book his grandfather used to read to him at night and gazes at a lizard-clearly a life of crime is ahead of him). The mom- and I use the term loosely has obviously been jealous of the love the grandpa and Clayton shared his whole life. If she resented her

    This book breaks my heart. There was so much potential. I loved every moment of this title until Clayton's grandfather dies. Clayton gets in trouble for his incredibly poor behavior in school (he falls asleep during required class reading of a book his grandfather used to read to him at night and gazes at a lizard-clearly a life of crime is ahead of him). The mom- and I use the term loosely has obviously been jealous of the love the grandpa and Clayton shared his whole life. If she resented her father so much for his time away when she was growing up why let him live with them? Plus she was an adult now. She should have gotten over most of her resentment or at least went into some much needed therapy. Mom is cruel and abusive under the guise of love. She sells everything her dad loved for next to nothing. Guitars he had for decades, albums, items promised to her son-you name it she put it in her garage sale. She also takes away her son's much loved prized possession-his harmonica. Clayton plays hooky (you don't blame him for a moment) to go after his grandfather's blues band. He takes the subway hence the title Clayton Byrd Goes Underground. I am not even going to get into the young ppl he meets on the train and all the following nonsense. Reading Rita Williams-Garcia is usually like being wrapped in a down comforter by the fireplace with a cat on your lap, a dog by your side and drinking hot cocoa. Complete with the miniature marshmallows. I would like to think the book had bad editing and she got way off the mark writing advice. The cover art is beautiful. I still remain a fan and look forward to her next offering.

  • Jordan Henrichs

    Reminds me a bit of Jason Reynolds' GHOST, but not near as authentic in voice as that title was. And like that title, I didn't really get much out of this one. I did not care for the first half of this novel. Cool Papa passes away just after we're introduced to him and the plot of the first half merely consists of Clayton struggling to stay awake in school. While Clayton running away from home in the second act and getting caught up in the wrong crowd sounds exciting, it really wasn't. I found m

    Reminds me a bit of Jason Reynolds' GHOST, but not near as authentic in voice as that title was. And like that title, I didn't really get much out of this one. I did not care for the first half of this novel. Cool Papa passes away just after we're introduced to him and the plot of the first half merely consists of Clayton struggling to stay awake in school. While Clayton running away from home in the second act and getting caught up in the wrong crowd sounds exciting, it really wasn't. I found myself very frustrated with Clayton's unreasonable mother but that was probably intentional. I did think Clayton's grief over losing his grandfather was handled appropriately but felt the resolution was a little rushed and tidy.

  • Destinee Sutton

    Beautifully written, but not very satisfying. I'm torn.

    I did feel very strongly about one thing. Clayton's mother was *so* frustrating. You can tell she's trying to be a perfect mother, but to me it seemed like she did everything wrong. She didn't respect Clayton's relationship with Cool Papa. It was like she was trying to make Clayton's grieving process more difficult. And then she treated Clayton's falling-asleep-in-school problem like a flaw in Clayton's character. The woman drove me crazy.

    Beautifully written, but not very satisfying. I'm torn.

    I did feel very strongly about one thing. Clayton's mother was *so* frustrating. You can tell she's trying to be a perfect mother, but to me it seemed like she did everything wrong. She didn't respect Clayton's relationship with Cool Papa. It was like she was trying to make Clayton's grieving process more difficult. And then she treated Clayton's falling-asleep-in-school problem like a flaw in Clayton's character. The woman drove me crazy. I wanted to feel sympathy for her because we know her backstory. We know Cool Papa was not a great father to her. We know she works long hours as a nurse and doesn't accept much help from Clayton's dad. Still. There were opportunities for her to figure out what was really going on with Clayton and she never took them.

    One thing I caught was that Clayton's mom calls him "Angel" and he plays the blues "harp." Maybe we're meant to see Clayton as an angelic kid who is driven "underground" by Cool Papa's death and the aftermath. A good kid who almost goes really wrong. Because Clayton goes underground, he meets the Beat boys and sees what it would be like to not have his hardworking, well-meaning mother. Even with her flaws.

    To me, the story ended a bit too soon. It felt unfinished. But there's a lot of good stuff about family dynamics and what *not* to do when a kid loses someone close to them (I'm looking at you, Ms. Byrd).

  • Michele Knott

    This book puts your heart through the wringer!

  • Hannah Greendale

    Clayton Byrd delights in playing music with his grandfather, Cool Papa Byrd, and his band of Bluesmen. Though he’s occasionally permitted to join in on his blues harp, Clayton longs for his own twelve-bar solo and to be a “

    .” When tragedy strikes Clayton’s family, his ability to play music is threatened. Burdened by grief and determined to keep the blues in his life, Clayton sets off on a journey to be reunited with music and his band of Bluesmen.

    Music is the heart a

    Clayton Byrd delights in playing music with his grandfather, Cool Papa Byrd, and his band of Bluesmen. Though he’s occasionally permitted to join in on his blues harp, Clayton longs for his own twelve-bar solo and to be a “

    .” When tragedy strikes Clayton’s family, his ability to play music is threatened. Burdened by grief and determined to keep the blues in his life, Clayton sets off on a journey to be reunited with music and his band of Bluesmen.

    Music is the heart and soul of this story. Williams-Garcia’s cadent descriptions of musicians, instruments, and the harmonies they create are as rhythmic as the blues themselves. Whether it’s the “

    ” accompanying Cool Papa Byrd as he sings in a voice “

    ” or the wail of a guitar “

    ” whose “

    ,” the beat of Clayton Byrd’s story will make readers want to boogie.

    But what are the blues without heartache? Cool Papa Byrd says “

    .” When death touches Clatyon’s family, old hurts that have haunted his family for years surface, and music – particularly the blues – is blamed as the cause of that pain.

    Clayton suddenly finds that his connection to music, to the blues, and to his grandfather is fading. Worried the connection will be severed forever, he finds the courage to set off on his own. His journey is fraught with challenges that force him to examine his identity as a musician.

    Williams-Garcia makes readers privy to the emotional struggles of both Clayton and his family, such that messages on forgiveness and the importance of being empathetic to the perspective of others find their way into the narrative. However, the crucial scene in which Clayton must confront his family to ask for – and offer – forgiveness is absent from the book. Without that emotionally pivotal scene, the conclusion of Clayton’s story feels clipped and rushed.

    is a melodic exploration of a boy navigating grief, loss, and family drama.

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