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Black Cat Bone Hardcover – September 1, 2006


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 9 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 4 - 7
  • Hardcover: 48 pages
  • Publisher: Creative Editions; Stated First Edition / First Printing edition (September 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1568461941
  • ISBN-13: 978-1568461946
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 0.4 x 12.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,027,130 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Starred Review. Grade 6 Up–Robert Johnson, the celebrated blues musician, is said to have sold his soul to the devil for his skills on the guitar. In fact, there is so much legend and conjecture surrounding this man (who literally died from drink and women) that he makes the perfect subject for a poetic biographical treatment. Lewis's verse echoes Johnson's music, as in this promise from the devil at the crossroad: I'm a cutthroat seller,/The Magician of Deal/Who can stoke sweet fire/That'll make you feel/Like a hothouse flower/On double defrost/Who won't give a nickel/For the petals it lost. A single line of text parades ghostlike across the bottom of each page, explaining the aspect of the man's life that the poem sings of, and becoming a cumulative mini-bio in itself. A couple of Johnson's own lyrics appear with the sequence of Lewis's poems where they add to the narrative tension. Kelley's mixed-media illustrations in blues and browns add to the mood and enliven the layout. With further biographical and bibliographic notes at the end, the resulting package is surprisingly deep: what appears at first glance to be just an illustrated poetry collection is a well-supported narrative riff introducing Johnson–the man and his music. Though a picture book, this title requires at least a middle-school-age audience, and will be best appreciated by older young adults, finding resonance with musicians, poets, or other artists who are feeling the blues.–Nina Lindsay, Oakland Public Library, CA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* The story of blues guitarist Robert Johnson--both the legend and the facts--hardly seems the stuff of a picture book. Johnson died young--in 1938, at 27, most likely poisoned in a dispute over a woman, or, as legend has it, the victim of a deal with the devil, who claimed Johnson's soul in exchange for mastery of the guitar. His influence on generations of blues, jazz, and rock musicians is unquestioned, however, and Lewis tells the story in evocative poems that use Johnson's lyrics to evoke the spirit of the blues and the hard times Johnson endured growing up in the Mississippi Delta. Like Wynton Marsalis' poems in Jazz A B C (2005), Lewis' imagery is probably too subtle for even middle-graders to grasp without help, but older readers with an interest in Johnson and the blues will feel the rhythm and understand the message of living for the moment and the music. Kelley's striking paintings, heavy with multiple shades of blue and brown, capture all the emotions that swirl around the Johnson myth: loneliness, obsession, and melancholy, of course, but also the up-tempo electricity generated by a bluesman in full cry. Bill Ott
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Armchair Interviews on May 4, 2007
Format: Hardcover
When I first received Black Cat Bone: The Life of Blues Legend Robert Johnson, I wondered why someone would write a picture book about a man who reportedly sold his soul to the devil in exchange for his now-legendary guitar licks, who also drank heavily, stole men's wives, and ultimately died after being poisoned by a jealous husband.

Upon further inspection, I discovered that the book is geared toward an audience of grade six and up and that J. Patrick Lewis did a fine job of ever-so-slightly glossing over the rather grittier parts of Robert Johnson's life, creating a poetic tribute to the stories he left behind.

I did not hear Robert Johnson until I was eighteen, although I'm sure many of my more musically inclined friends--the ones who sought out old vinyl while I was still copying Paula Abdul's dance moves--learned about him long before that. But imagine being introduced to Johnson as early as age twelve. It's the kind of moment that can change the course of your future, especially if you happen to already have access to an acoustic guitar.

Lewis tells the story of Johnson's life through verse, with further biographical information in the forward and endnotes. His poems, including multiple rhyme schemes and free verse appropriate to their subjects, will leave readers smiling with their bluesy rhythms and soulful lines. Likewise, Gary Kelley's illustrations are stunning. Although they could easily stand on their own, they are the perfect complement to Lewis's writing and Johnson's history.

Still, I wonder what pre-teen would feel comfortable whipping out a picture book in homeroom--perhaps one who can fully appreciate the legend that was Robert Johnson and knows that it doesn't matter a lick what people think. All that matters is that you have stood at the crossroad and found which way is yours.

Armchair Interviews says: Wonderful words about the man and his music.
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Format: Hardcover
A poetical biography of Robert Johnson, blues musician. The story is told through a series of poems, so check with your child's teacher before you choose it for a report. The illustrations are fascinating, and it's fun to play his music, or other blues music, while you read and talk about this with your kids. There is a good summary/timeline at the back of the book.

Two cautions:

1) The book mentions the legend that Robert Johnson "sold his soul to the devil" to become a musician. In our family, we don't play around with stuff like that, so I had to address that up front.
2) Poisoned to death at age 27, legend has it by a jealous husband. This book does mention hundreds of love affairs and jealous husbands. Moms and dads need to know what their young ones are reading.

The grown-up subject matter makes this book better for junior high students and older, and the illustrations are so interesting that this will not come across as "just a kids' book."

Very well done.
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More About the Author

After nearly three decades as a professor of economics, J. Patrick Lewis turned to poetry. He is the author of more than 75 children's books including A Hippopotamusn't (1990), BoshBlobberBosh (1998), Please Bury Me in the Library (2004), First Dog (2009), Spot the Plot (2009), and The House (2009).

He has recently been named the third U.S. Children's Poet Laureate (2011-2013) by the Poetry Foundation.

His books have been published by Creative Editions, Knopf, Atheneum, Dial, Harcourt, Little, Brown, National Geographic, Chronicle Books, Scholastic, Candlewick, Schwartz & Wade, Holiday House, Sleeping Bear Press, Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press, Dawn Publications, and others. Gulls Hold Up the Sky, his first book of adult poems, was published by Laughing Fire Press (2010).

Pat's children's poems have also appeared in CRICKET (26 times), SPIDER, LADYBUG, CICADA, ODYSSEY, RANGER RICK, HIGHLIGHTS FOR CHILDREN, Ms. Magazine, YOUR BIG BACKYARD, CREATIVE CLASSROOM, STORYTIME, STORYWORKS, CHICKADEE, AHOY, LANGUAGE ARTS, JOURNAL OF CHILDREN'S LITERATURE, BOOKBIRD, READING TODAY and over 100 anthologies. He wrote the 1992 National Children's Book Week poem, printed on one million bookmarks and distributed nationally.

Lewis has received numerous awards from the American Library Association, the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, and others. He was the recipient of the 2010-11 National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Excellence in Children's Poetry Award, presented every two years.

WHERE I'LL BE NEXT--Schools, Bookstores, Conferences

October 14-16, 2011 Poetry Foundation--TED Lecture Chicago, Illiniois
October 23-25, 2011 NY State Reading Assn. Rye Brook, New York
October 28-31, 2011 Keystone State Reading Assn. Lancaster, Pennsylvania
November 5, 2011 Buckeye Book Fair Wooster, Ohio
November 8, 2011 Ashland University Ashland, Ohio
November 15-16, 2011 St. Joseph's College Rensselaer, Indiana
November 17-20, 2011 NCTE Convention Chicago, Illinois
December 1, 2010 Hillview Elementary Newark, Ohio
December 8, 2011 West Chester University (Dan Darigan) West Chester, PA
January 18, 2012 Richard Avenue Elementary Grove City, Ohio
January 24, 2012 Fouse Elementary Westerville, Ohio
March 1-3, 2012 Charlotte Huck Ch. Lit. Conference Redlands, California
April 3-5, 2012 Holland Hall Primary Tulsa, Oklahoma
April 12, 2012 Washington-Centerville Public Library Centerville, Ohio
April 13, 2012 Stingley Elementary Centerville, Ohio
April 17-25, 2012 Anglo-American School Moscow, Russia
April 29-May 2, 2012 IRA Convention Chicago, Illinois
May 10, 2012 Wynford Elementary Bucyrus, Ohio
March 22, 2013 OCTELA Conference Columbus, Ohio

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