A quest isn't a quest if you can count on its outcome. The journey really is just as significant as the hoped-for goal. This message underlies this delightfully original book which traces a path through seven sites important to what music historians call the "Mississippi Blues Trail" — in so organically inviting a way that readers may not even realize all they are learning.
Bo Willie fixes his hound a big breakfast one morning only to discover that:
Sometimes life is a mystery. Love is a mountain climb.
The blues grabbed me like a shaking chill.
I found my dog house -- empty.
So of course he goes in quest of Yellow Dog, asking people he knows for tips and help. Farmer Fred saw "Old Yella hit Highway 61 ... RUNNING." This starts the story's interweaving of geography, music history, and lost-dog plot: As an end note tells us, Highway 61 "snakes up through the Mississippi Delta into Memphis, Tennessee." The Delta section is known as "the Blues Trail" in honor of the many musicians born nearby.
At this point, we almost want to hand you the book and share its pages because the language is so sensory you want to repeat sentences over and over ("... we drove toward Merigold to shimmy, shake, and boogie"). Chris Raschka's needlepoint-style art is colorful, lively, and perfectly suited to this journey.
Yes, Bo Willie is grieving, but the adults around him help and comfort him. And along the way, following Yellow Dog, he gets to experience the Merigold Blues Club, Hicks' Tamales, Beale Street and more. The ending is as surprising as the rest of the book, and it's taking all our will power not to give it away.
Alice Faye Duncan is the author of more than a dozen children's books, including Opal Lee and What It Means to Be Free. Her works have been nominated for two NAACP image awards. She has once again done herself proud with this one. It is ideal for readers age four to eight and for anyone who wants to get a tear in their eye, delve into Mississippi Blues history, and smile widely.