Book Review: My Hands Sing the Blues

LadyD Books: Daughter and Granddaughter
My Hands Sing the Blues: Romare Bearden's Childhood Journey
What a beautiful legacy of Romare Bearden regarding the history of Afro-American art. I am so pleased to review this wonderful book, My Hands Sing the Blues: Romare Bearden's Childhood Journey. Special thanks to the author, Jeanne Walker Harvey and illustrator, Elizabeth Zunon.

My Review

Romare Bearden was an African American artist and writer. He worked in collages, sharing his life's experiences, especially from scenes in the American South. Bearden turned to music, co-writing the hit song Sea Breeze, which was recorded by Billy Eckstine and Dizzy Gillespie; it is still considered a jazz classic.


"I'm like a trumpet player blowing loud, then dropping back.
When I put a beat of color on an empty canvas, I never know what's coming down the track." -- Bearden
 My favorite quote from the book is,

"You put down one color, and it calls for an answer. You have to look at it like a melody."
Just like jazz, with all of its free form improvisation, so it is with the collages of this artist. Romare's hands truly sing the blues when he would cut, paste and glue. There is complexity in his style and the author captures the rhythm of his life's journey superbly! Bearden was born on Sept 2, 1911. 2011 marks 100th year of his legacy.

Jeanne Harvey begins Romare's story in South Carolina, with pictures of natural surroundings in soft earth tones, while Romare remembers his family roots with his great grandparents and then travels aboard a train to New York, with visual signs of social injustice all around.

I must say that Elizabeth Zunon captures the story pictures well of Bearden's complex and colorful artwork.  For more information regarding his artwork, visit Romare Bearden's Skilled Lines



While visiting the beautiful city of San Francisco with family and friends, I enjoyed the vibrant dance that only a city can bring with its tall buildings, the brightly colored painted walls in the neighborhood and street musicians in the park.


I love this beautiful hardcover book and have re-read it over and  over to one of my grandsons because the gift of creativity is to be shared, for it is alive. Bearden's work commands our respect! In addition,  you will want to read the valuable end notes towards the back of the book to glean an excellent overview of one man's artistic influence around the 1920s while the world of jazz was happening during the Harlem Renaissance

 Harvey's presentation and tribute to Romare Bearden's Childhood Journey is brilliant and inspiring!*****

I highly recommend this one to all parents, grandparents, musicians and artists. It is a fabulous picture book!

For more information, read about Bearden's Biography.

The Lantern 1979

For more wonderful art, visit http://www.artnet.com/artists/romare-bearden/

About The Book: Inside Flap

"As a young boy growing up in North Carolina, Romare Bearden listened to his great-grandmother's Cherokee stories and the whistles of trains steaming through town.

When Romare's family, faced with Jim Crow laws, decided to head north, tears stung Romare's eyes as he wached the world whiz by out the train window. Later he captured his childhood memories in a famous painting, Watching the Good Trains Go By. Using that painting as inspiration  and creating a text influenced by the blues and jazz that Bearden  loved, Jeanne Walker Harvey has created a story of Bearden's childhood. She describes the patchwork of daily southern life that he saw from the train's window and the story of his arrival in shimmering New York City.

Artists and critics today praise the collages for which Bearden became famous, collages filled with visual metaphors honoring his past, African American culture, and the human experience."
About The Author

"Jeanne Walker Harvey became fascinated with Romer Bearden's amazing collges when she was a docent at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. She has a degree in English literature and psychology from Stanford university and has taught language arts in middle school. Ms. Harvey has authored another picture book, (which I reviewed) Astro the Steller Sea Lion. She lives in Marin County, California. with her husband. She has two sons in college and a black labrador who sits at her feet when she writes. To found out more about the author, visit her at: www.jeanneharvey.com"





“You can’t get a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to suit me." C. S. Lewis




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