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Clayton Byrd Goes Underground: 01/07/19

Clayton Byrd Goes Underground

Clayton Byrd Goes Underground by Rita Williams-Garcia is the story of a boy who loves the blues and wants to follow in his grandfather's footsteps. Unfortunately when the grandfather dies suddenly, it looks like Clayton's plans will be put on hold permanently.

The heart of the conflict between Clayton's love of the blues and his sudden inability to play it is an intergenerational one. Clayton and his grandfather were close. The blues, though, got in the way of Papa Byrd's family time, making him a very distant father. His daughter, Claytons' mother, still resents that time away and can't fathom the closeness he and her son felt through their joint love of music.

Although Cool Papa Byrd wanted Clayton to have his things, Clayton's mother is eager to remove all the reminders of her father from the house. It's her way of grieving — for the loss of a father, and the loss of the childhood she had wanted, and the loss of her personal space when he had come to live with her as an old man.

Clayton's way of grieving is to seek out the music he so loved, and to seek out the people Cool Papa Byrd played with. When he can't find them, he ends up with a rough crowd. It's just a day but it could be one that forever changes Clayton's path.

The time period for this novel isn't stated but from the clash of blues and hiphop at the New York subway, I mentally put it in the mid 1970s. There's no mention of smart phones or anything else that would put the book in a more recent era.

Regardless, Clayton is a relatable character. I would like to see him grow as a person and a musician over more books.

Five stars

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