Review of Jimmy’s Rhythm & Blues: The Extraordinary Life of James Baldwin

Jimmy’s Rhythm & Blues: The Extraordinary Life of James Baldwin Jimmy’s Rhythm & Blues: The Extraordinary Life of James Baldwin
by Michelle Meadows; illus. by Jamiel Law
Primary, Intermediate    Harper/HarperCollins    48 pp.
1/24    9780063273474    $19.99

In this picture-book biography, Meadows’s expressive free verse beautifully contributes to an engaging narrative about Baldwin’s (1924–1987) literary prowess and staunch activism, making his story accessible to young readers. She traces the future author’s childhood in Harlem and the solace he found in writing; his time as a young preacher; and his decision to leave preaching and pursue writing “to capture / the voice of his ancestors, stand up for oppressed people, / and push the world to change.” Following a devastating rejection of his first attempt at a novel, Baldwin (who was Black and gay) moves to Paris to escape the discrimination so prevalent in America, falls in love with Swiss painter Lucien Happersberger, and finishes his novel Go Tell It on the Mountain. Meadows emphasizes Baldwin’s persistence and also relates how he became active in the civil rights movement, lending his eloquent voice to the struggle, championing justice and equality for Black people back home. Law’s digitally created illustrations in striking double-page spreads powerfully evoke the subject. An author’s note, a list of Baldwin’s oeuvre, a timeline, and selected sources are appended.

Pubissue-From the March/April 2024 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Pauletta Brown Bracy
Pauletta Brown Bracy is professor of library science at North Carolina Central University. She is chair of the 2015-2017 Coretta Scott King Book Awards committee and serves on the 2017 Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards committee.

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