Back To School KidLit Reviews

In the past two weeks my three children have all started school. OK, two would bristle at my calling them “children” since they are both firmly into the world of YA and even adult books. Even my “baby” is reading chapter books. But I still get to enjoy my picture book fix with some younger relatives and friends. Because I love it all…from picture books through chapter books, middle readers, all the way to YA. So, to celebrate back to school days this September (I may even continue it longer if you enjoy it) every Thursday will be dedicated to KidLit. I’ll be reviewing some great new books and maybe even throwing in an interview or guest post.

We’ll start the month with Jeanne Walker Harvey‘s bk_astro_140latest book My Hands Sing the Blues. I first heard about Jeanne when I read her debut picture book Astro the Stellar Sea Lion (and fell in love with it). Astro was about a rogue sea lion while My Hand Sings the Blues is about an artist, Romare Bearden. And believe it or not, tomorrow September 2 would have been Romare’s 100th birthday! Jeanne was inspried to write about Romare when she was a docent for school groups at the San Francisco Museum of Modern of Art.

My Hand Sings the Blues

Author: Jeanne Walker Harvey

Illustrator: Elizabeth Zunon

Hardcover: 40 pages (also available in Kindle format)

Publisher: Marshall Cavendish Corp. (September, 2011)


My Hands Sing the Blues is the story of Romare Beardon, a young African-American boy who, with his parents, journeyed from the North bk_myhands_140Carolina home he knows to New York City in 1914 in search of a better life. It also tells how that young boy became an artist, painting both scenes from his Southern childhood and his adopted home, New York City. The text of the book incorporates some actual quotes from Beardon, the lyrical quality of the blues, and a work done by Beardon on page 5.


This book can add so much to a child’s education. So often when children–and many adults–think of the migration of African Americans from the South to the North they think of the Underground Railroad in place around the time of the Civil War. What we usually forget is that discrimination continued, causing many African-American families to continue moving North to escape it long after the Civil War was over. My Hands Sing the Blues tells that overlooked story through the eyes of one little boy in a lyrical, almost poetic way. This book begs to be read aloud so you can savor the words.

The illustrations, with the exception of those that are Beardon reproductions, bring to mind quilting. This unusual style encourages you to slow down and look over the illustrations. In that second look young readers and the adults enjoying the book with them will find more details to discuss…what are colored entrances, why are men walking with North, what is the Apollo Club. Aside from being entertaining, My Hands Sing the Blues can be an educational tool in the classroom.

I loved the rhythm of this book and would love to read another written in this style. Thanks for another great book Jeanne.

Category: Book Reviews
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One Response
  1. Hi Jodi,

    Thanks so much for the great write-up and your kind word. I really appreciate it, and especially today because it’s the official Launch Date of MY HANDS SING THE BLUES! I look forward to reading your Thursday Kid Lit postings.


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