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

HarperCollins. Jan. 2024. 48p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780063273474.
Gr 4-6–Despite the title’s suggestion of a musical subject, this book takes on legendary writer James Baldwin. It covers his life from his childhood in Harlem during the Great Depression, to his early beginnings as a writer and expat, to his involvement in the Civil Rights movement, relationship with Lucien Happersberger, and the final years of his career. Meadows gets into enough detail for readers to understand the nuances of Baldwin’s life without totally overwhelming them, but the level of detail and concepts discussed make this biography appropriate for older elementary or middle grade readers. Sentences are simple and direct, lending an atmosphere of seriousness that matches the book’s iconic subject. Back matter includes a time line and list of sources. Readers across a wide range of grade levels will be mesmerized by Law’s masterful illustrations, which employ an expressive use of color and perspective.
VERDICT This stunning picture book biography is highly recommended.

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