Review of Yellow Dog Blues

Yellow Dog BluesYellow Dog Blues
by Alice Faye Duncan; illus. by Chris Raschka
Primary     Eerdmans    32 pp.     g
9/22     978-0-8028-5553-4     $18.99

This book about a lost dog is also a musical and cultural journey along the Mississippi Blues Trail. Duncan’s (Just like a Mama, rev. 3/20) freewheeling narrative opens with young Bo Willie waking up to an empty doghouse, an open gate, and the harsh truth: his puppy is gone. He sets out to find Yellow Dog, first asking Farmer Fred if he’s seen the pup. “Old Yella hit Highway 61,” Fred tells him, and Bo Willie is off. Mr. Yee’s son saw Yellow Dog “on Dockery Farm, where Muddy Waters played the blues.” That lead turns out to be a dead end, but Bo Willie then sees a sign for the Boogie Blues Club Merigold and hitches a ride with Aunt Jessie in her pink Cadillac. Eventually, they hear that the pup left on a Greyhound bus, traveling with a band. “Where can that little dog be?” Studying the map provides the answer: Yellow Dog has moved to Memphis. The story’s moral: some dogs are loyal, and some “ramble and run the road. They love you and then they’re gone.” Raschka’s (Mama Baby, rev. 3/20; Saint Spotting, rev. 5/21) compelling art, “created with fabric paint and embroidery thread on raw canvas,” adds a down-home feel and a bit of levity to the emotional drama. Notes about the origins of Delta Blues and the landmarks on the Mississippi Blues Trail are appended. While many of the musical references will be over the heads of the picture-book audience, this simple introduction to blues history tells a universal story of loss to which many kids will relate; and some may even admire the pup’s independent spirit.

From the September/October 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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