Daddy Played the Blues by Michael Garland

Daddy Played the Blues

Michael Garland, Author and Illustrator

Tilbury House Publishers, Fiction, Sep. 8, 2017

Suitable for Ages: 8-12

Themes: Music, The Blues,  Family Relationships, The Great Migration, Jim Crow South

Opening: I was six years old in 1936 the day we left the farm in Mississippi. 

Book Jacket Synopsis: Cassie was six years old when her family left the farm, the boll weevils, the floods, and the landlord.  They could no longer scratch our a living there anymore. They journeyed north in search of a better life.

Cassie’s family joined the Great Migration from the Deep South to Chicago, where there was work to be had in the stockyards. Across the kids’ laps in the back seat of their old jalopy lay Daddy’s six-string guitar. Daddy worked hard to put food on the table, but what he loved doing most was playing the blues.

Daddy Played the Blues is a tribute to the long, ongoing African-American struggle for social and economic justice and a homage to the rich, yearning strain of American music that was born in the cotton fields and bayous of the South and transformed popular music around the world.

Why I like this book:

Garland’s story evokes the heartache for Cassie and her family who were tenant farmers in the sharecropper system during the segregated Jim Crow South. The raw pain of their hard lives is heard in the songs her father and other family members sing. The music becomes an important part of Cassie and her brother’s memories of their trip and new lives in Chicago. Garland’s story is fictional, but historically correct.

Garland’s text is as fluid as the songs Cassie’s Daddy and Uncle Vernon play on the porch steps each night after a day working in the stockyards. If they weren’t playing, they were talking about the WC Handy and Blind Lemon Jefferson or Bessie Smith. Garland highlights the lyrics from four blues songs like “The Little Red Rooster.”

Dogs begin to bark now

And the hounds begin to howl, 

Dogs begin to bark now

And the hounds begin to howl,

Watch out stray cat,

The little red rooster’s on the prowl.

Garland’s illustrations are exquisite and transport readers to this bygone era. They compliment the mood  of Garland’s compassionate storytelling. He pioneered a beautiful medium of digital woodcut technique that really makes this a stand-out picture book about how the blues influenced music around the globe.

Resources: Garland shares how he first heard and fell in love with blues music, becoming a lifelong fan. He  has included Song Credits of some of the great artists. An eight-page Author’s Note gives con­text to the story and provides information about blues history and its influence on generations of popular musicians.  There is also a Map of the Great Migration from 1910-1970, and a double-page spread of the eleven leading blues artists with photos and blurbs about their contribution to the musical history. This is great resource information for older students.

Michael Garland is the illustrator of 75 children’s picture books, half of which he also wrote. Miss Smith and the Haunted Library is a New York Times bestseller. His other recent books include Lost Dog, Tugboat, Car Goes Far, Fish Had a Wish, Where’s My Homework?, and Grandpa’s Tractor.  Michael has been in love with blues music since first hearing it decades ago, and Daddy Played the Blues is his reverent salute to Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, John Lee Hooker, Lightning Hopkins, B.B. Kind and the other bluest greats.  Stop by his website.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

About Patricia Tiltonhttps://childrensbooksheal.wordpress.comI want "Children's Books Heal" to be a resource for parents, grandparents, teachers and school counselors. My goal is to share books on a wide range of topics that have a healing impact on children who are facing challenges in their lives. If you are looking for good books on grief, autism, visual and hearing impairments, special needs, diversity, bullying, military families and social justice issues, you've come to the right place. I also share books that encourage art, imagination and creativity. I am always searching for those special gems to share with you. If you have a suggestion, please let me know.

24 thoughts on “Daddy Played the Blues by Michael Garland

  1. Wow, this is quite different from Michael’s other picture books, and I love it. Another great choice for Black History Month.

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    • Yes, it really is a different book. I fell in love with it immediately! The illustrations are beautiful. He posted my review on FB along with a photo of the rooster for the song “Little Red Rooster.”

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  2. I love historical fiction. This looks like a beautiful story My library doesn’t have it, but I think I am going to put in an interlibrary loan at my job for it. The illustrations are amazing! Thanks.

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  3. I didn’t know about the Great Migration until I taught it to students through a piece of literature. So glad there are great picture books of this event now! I’ll be looking for this one! Thanks for posting.

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    • I am pleased there are books for young children about the Great Migration and the music the families carried with them. Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming really gave me a sense about the migration north.

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