The blues of Flats Brown, by Walter Dean MyersFrom Bogey Bear
This picture book could have been published as a chapter book.  It has a much-more detailed story than most picture books.  It is longer, so you will need to plan on a little more time to read it than the other books here.  The pictures do fully-illustrate the story and they provide important information about what is happening, so be sure to let young children see each page as you read it to them.

Many children will not know what blues music is, so it might be helpful to find some to play before you read this book.  I'd suggest finding some early blues like from the old Chess Label or even the older styles played on acoustic guitar years ago, something other than today's overdriven rock styles.  I sure am glad that Walter Dean Myers has chosen to share a story with children about one of America's gifts to the world, blues music, a fully-American art form.  Children, whether they know what this music is or not, will relate to the fine pictures of dogs playing and enjoying music.  Who can't love a dog that plays great guitar?

About the Book
To escape an abusive master, a junkyard dog named Flats runs away and makes a name for himself from Mississippi to New York City playing blues on his guitar.

From Publishers Weekly
"An exceptionally talented junkyard dog gets his due in this picture-book tribute to the blues," said PW. "Youngsters will take to this canine crooner." Ages 4-8.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal
Kindergarten-Grade 4-"This here's the story of Flats Brown, the blues playingest dog you ever heard of." He was born in a Mississippi junkyard owned by a man so mean that he didn't even like himself. All the pup wants to do is play guitar. Grubbs wants to turn him into a fighting dog, so Flats and his friend Caleb, an old dog with a good heart, flee. Pursued by the junkman, he is forced to say good-bye to Caleb, who becomes too tired to run.

Flats's adventures take him from playing for pennies on the street to wealth and fame in New York City. There, he finally vanquishes his foe with a song called "The Gritty Grubbs Blues" that "touched Grubbs deep inside." Flats heads back South to play guitar on the waterfront with Caleb because he "-was a blues playing kind of dog, not a filthy rich kind of dog." Story and pictures work well together to create a bluesy atmosphere. Pastel illustrations feature variations of blue to depict the sky, the murky inside of clubs, and the Midnight Special that takes the dog to New York. Laden also uses perspective with dramatic effect.

The night train is a long diagonal snaking across two pages, the buildings of New York tilt and loom, and Grubbs's sad face fills the page as he weeps to the blues. While readers may not understand the music, they will respond to this soulful story. Words and music for "The New York City Blues" are appended.

Karen James, Louisville Free Public Library, KY Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the School & Library Binding edition.

From Booklist
Mississippi junkyard dog Flats Brown loves singing and playing the blues with his beloved old friend Caleb. When mean owner A. J. Grubbs decides to make them fighting dogs, the friends hit the road. In Memphis, Flats records a record that's so successful it gets Grubbs on his tail, but when Grubbs tracks him down in New York, it turns out Flats' blues can draw out and comfort the hidden hurt in even the coldest hearts.

Steeped in the oral tradition, this adventure becomes a road trip through an important musical genre. Myers beautifully conveys the blues' unique roots and the way the music bestows comfort, catharsis, and healing. The narrator's vernacular, rhythmic and easy-rolling, has the feel of a timeless legend, and the vibrant, jewel-toned illustrations, dominated by moody, bittersweet, tonal variations of blue, are filled with rich detail, expressive characters, and fantastic landscapes.

Flats and Caleb are a delightful canine duo who teach much about friendship and the joy and comfort music can bring. Words and music for the poignant "The New York City Blues" are included. While it's Flats' and Caleb's song, when it's sung by children, it will become theirs, too, showing how blues at its best is a participatory experience, universal in message and emotional impact, and transcending time and place. For another book about music's many gifts, turn to Gwendolyn Battle-Lavert's recent picture book The Music in Derrick's Heart.

Shelle Rosenfeld

From Kirkus Reviews
A pair of blues-pickin' junkyard dogs take to the road in this soulful tale from Myers (Monster, 1999, etc.) and Laden (The Night I Followed the Dog, 1994, etc.). With Flats on a battered National guitar and old Caleb backing him up on bones, the two hounds play street corners and small clubs from Memphis to New York City. Everywhere they go, sooner or later their mean owner, A.J. Grubbs, shows up, fixing to drag them back to the junkyard.

Laden gives her musical mutts patched overalls and suitably mournful mugs; Myers bends language the way bluesmen bend notes for an authentically low, lonesome sound. In the end, the tears Flats brings to Grubbs's eyes with ``The Gritty Grubbs Blues'' wash away all that meanness, allowing pooches and pursuer to go their separate ways. Words and music to an original song close this tale of a legendary bluesdog. (Picture book. 7-9) -- Copyright ©2000, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the School & Library Binding edition.

From Parents' Choice
Two Mississippi junkyard dogs, the young Flats and his elderly friend, Caleb, belong to a vicious man. Flats comforts himself by playing the blues on his guitar accompanied by Caleb playing the bones. Finally, forced to fight or flee, they flee.

With the colorful language and cadences of the blues, Myers captures the hard realities that fostered the birth of blues in the south and their migration north. A 2000 Parents' Choice® Gold Award winner.

Reviewed by Kemie Nix, Parents' Choice® 2000 --Parents' Choice

About the Author
Walter Dean Myers is a New York Times bestselling and critically acclaimed author who has garnered much respect and admiration for his fiction, nonfiction, and poetry for young people. Winner of the first Michael L. Printz Award, he is considered one of the preeminent writers for children. He lives in Jersey City, New Jersey, with his family.

 About the Illustrator
Nina Laden is the author and illustrator of the bestselling "When Pigasso Met Mootise" and "The Night I Followed the Dog." She grew up in the New York City area but now lives in Washington State with her husband and three stepsons. Like Flats Brown, she plays blues guitar.