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MY MAN BLUE by Nikki Grimes


by Nikki Grimes

Pub Date: May 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-8037-2326-1
Publisher: Dial Books

This against-the-odds book from Grimes (Jazmin’s Notebook, 1998, etc.) tells of an African-American boy living in a neighborhood that cuts him no slack, and the man who helps keep his feet grounded and his self-esteem steady against the occasional buffeting of his peers. Damon and his mother have just moved to a new apartment when an old friend of the mother’s introduces himself: Blue, a rather steely character wrapped in shades and enigma. Damon (who has just lost his father) is wary of Blue; he gives the man a chance only when it becomes evident that Blue is not about to move in on Damon’s home turf. Blue (who “had” a son, now lost to the streets or worse) offers advice of haiku-like simplicity, teaching Damon to be his own man: anger is a dangerous waste, fear useless unless subverted, men don’t hit women. Grimes gets across more subtle life lessons as well in both rhymed and unrhymed verse, on the dignity of work, and the sheer physical pleasure of sport when competition isn’t the sole motivating factor. It is a story of a boy who is old for his age, but not callous—and perhaps saved from callousness by Blue. Lagarrigue’s illustrations are brooding gardens of color that hold the forces of disorder and menace at bay, while Damon’s cool earnestness—as well as his courage and independence—brighten each page. (Picture book. 6-10)