Muddy – Perfect Picture Book Friday

“Oh, child.

         Long gone.

                  Oh, child.

                               Sail on.”

Can you hear it? Can you feel it? The rhythm. The blues. Because this is the story of Muddy Waters. 

“McKinley Morganfield was never good at doing what he was told.

Especially when it came to playing in the mud.

His mamma should’ve been mad. But she couldn’t help but laugh.

‘Ah, my muddy baby. My sweet, muddy baby.’

McKinley’s mamma gave him a life. And a laugh.

And then she was gone.

Forever.

Oh, child.

            Long gone.

                        Oh, child.

                                      Sail on.”

You may be wondering if these last four lines are lyrics to a song. They aren’t.** The book is an attempt to capture the spirit of “Muddy Waters’s journey…a quintessentially American story of struggle, hope, determination, and perseverance.”

And capture it, he does. With a lyricism that matches the blues. We see Muddy’s determination to play the music that fills his soul, in his refusal to listen, his refusal to do what he is told to do. And his music is so expressive that people can’t help but move.

“It was a deep-feeling, gutbucket,

gut-aching music full of life

and love and trouble and pride.

It made people stand up

and raise their hands

and stomp their feet

and laugh and cry 

and come alive.”

And the rest, as they say, is history, from the Mississippi Delta to Chicago to the White House to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Muddy sailed on. Oh, yeah.

The illustrator, Evan Turk, an Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Honor recipient, infuses the pages with a restless, bold energy, perfect for its subject. Muddy’s hands, his cheekbones, and his guitar figure prominently.

Title: Muddy: The Story of Blues Legend Muddy Waters

Author: Michael Mahin

Illustrator: Evan Turk

Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2017

Age range: 4-8 (maybe a little older as a kickstarter for more research)

**Although this book is considered a biography, purists will find that the author, Michael Mahin, does take a few liberties—one he notes on the copyright page—saying “All ‘lyrics’ and dialogue in the story represent the work of the author.”  He also restates this a bit differently in the author’s note, saying that while some elements of the story are fictional [dialogue and lyrics], he remains true to the historical facts as much as possible.

And don’t forget to head over to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book Friday to find more fantabulous recommendations!

17 thoughts on “Muddy – Perfect Picture Book Friday

    • Jilanne Hoffmann says:

      Yes, the images are so expressive, just like Muddy’s blues. And now the free association is taking me to the Mississippi River and how it’s called “The Big Muddy.” It all fits, doesn’t it?

    • Jilanne Hoffmann says:

      Yes, it’s a fine line that publishers, librarians, and authors are walking these days. As an author, I guess you have to decide how much you’re going to play with the facts. It’s helpful that this author lays out the fictional components in his author’s note.

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