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

By Michelle Meadows
Illustrated by Jamiel Law
Harper / HarperCollins, 2024

48 pages

Cover of Jimmy's Rhythm and Blues: The Extraordinary Life of James Baldwin
Jimmy’s Rhythm and Blues: The Extraordinary Life of James Baldwin by James Baldwin

978-0-06-327347-4

Ages 4-8

“Home is brick brown, / Harlem, uptown, / trains rumbling by.” An exquisitely composed picture book biography of James Baldwin illuminates his interest in the arts and development as a writer from a young age. Jimmy was raised by a strict preacher father who only saw value in reading the Bible, and a mother who warmly nurtured him. A Black boy in America, Jimmy knew “the sting of violence and racism” but “Whether he felt frightened, lonely, sad, or worried … Words soothed him.” He wrote often and devoured books at the public library after school. Support and mentoring had a huge impact on his life from the time he was young. “Over the years, Jimmy also thought of becoming a musician, a painter, or an actor. But he saw writing as his special gift—a calling to capture the voice of his ancestors, stand up for oppressed people, and push the world to change.” Through finding love as a young gay man in Paris to his first book’s publication, and from his determination to bear witness to racism in the United States to his decision to move to France, Baldwin was a passionate, sharply insightful, deeply caring voice in American and world letters. An author’s note, sources, a Baldwin biography, and a timeline are included in the end matter, while a delightful photo collage of Baldwin graces the endpapers of this artful account paired with digital illustrations dancing with shadow and light. ©2024 Cooperative Children’s Book Center