“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.
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!