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THE BLUES OF FLATS BROWN
Written by Walter Dean Myers
Illustrated by Nina Laden
ISBN# 0-8234-1480-9 (Hardcover)
ISBN# 0-8234-1679-8 (Paperback)
Ages 6-12
32 pages
Published by Holiday House 2000

Also as Book/Audio CD:
ISBN# 1-5911-2424-7
Live Oak Media



Flats Brown and his buddy Caleb are two unhappy mutts. They live in a junkyard with their mean owner, A.J. Grubbs, who wants to turn them into fighting dogs. All Flats wants to do is play the blues, backed up by ol' Caleb on the bones. So the two run away and play their way clear to Memphis, Tennessee, where Flats records an album and earns himself a reputation. But word travels fast, and pretty soon A.J. Is after him. Will Flats have to go home to the junkyard? Or will he sing a blues song that finds its way into A.J.'s cold, hard heart?

"An exceptionally talented junkyard dog gets his due in Myers's (Monster; Harlem) picture-book tribute to the blues. Though Flats would love to just play the blues on his guitar and sing all day, his owner, A.J. Grubbs, plans to throw Flats and his other dog, Caleb, into the vicious fighting ring. The two pooches flee and eventually land in Memphis, where Flats records a hit record. All the fame and attention paid to his dog gets Grubbs angry and he's soon on Flats's trail. Grubbs tracks Flats to a New York City blues club where, finally, the dog's music reaches the bitter man's heart. Myers's shaggy fantasy has the slow-and-easy pacing of a lazy Southern afternoon. His colorful phrases and dialect (Flats in New York City is "as out of place as a three-legged skunk at a Georgia hoedown") evoke the Mississippi and Tennessee settings, and his music industry scenarios will provide adults with a good chuckle. In Laden's (The Night I Followed the Dog) dusky-pastel world, the anthropomorphic Flats sports sunglasses and jeans, blending right in with other performers and nightclub folk. She shifts her palette to brighter hues when the canine shirks the junkyard for the big cities. Youngsters will likely take to this canine crooner." -Publishers Weekly

"Walter Dean Myers' fun picture book (Holiday, 2000) about a junkyard dog turned celebrated blues musician works wonderfully as a book/cassette kit thanks to Charles Turner's spirited narration and Mark "Dog" Deffenbaugh's bluesy guitar strumming. Nina Laden's vibrant pastel paintings capture the adventures of the anthropomorphic titular character, a teenaged pooch in hip attire who loves playing the blues. The action begins when Flats and his much older canine pal, Caleb, escape from their cruel, self-hating owner, A.J. Grubbs, a character Turner plays with gruff abandon. As street musicians in Mississippi, Flats plays guitar and Caleb accompanies by rattling a pair of bones. They wow the masses with such tunes as "The Freaky Flea Blues" and "The Mangy Muzzle Stomp." With Grubbs on his tail but leaving his arthritic pal Caleb behind, Flats takes off for the Big Apple where he finds even greater success. Myers' story offers meaningful messages about friendship and music without being too didactic or preachy. Gentle sound effects (crickets chirping in a nighttime scene, an approaching train, the sounds of dogs barking) enhance the action. Turner's energetic narration keeps the story humming along. Deffenbaugh's guitar work pleases the ear, and his performance of "The New York City Blues"(music and lyrics by Myers) is the program's highlight. This story about the joys of blues music has found a format that serves it very well." -School Library Journal

Awards:
Parent's Choice Gold Award


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