Here is a book full of surprise and delight. My Man Blue is a compilation of narrative poetry and illustrations that will lead young readers through a splendid story of a young boy's relationship with his mother's friend, Blue. My Man Blue begins with Damon and his mother moving to his mother's old neighborhood, where Damon meets Blue. Damon, reluctant to befriend his mother's old pal, soon finds that Blue is actually quite gentle. The relationship between the two evolves, and Blue becomes a surrogate father figure for Damon. Blue, too, is in need: he lost his son Zeke to the streets. Damon is leery of becoming a replacement, and Blue responds, I know . . . but your laugh sure helps conjure his face! Together they traverse milestones in Damon's life. Blue teaches Damon tolerance, trust, how to temper his anger, and most of all, what it means to become a man. My Man Blue is poignant not only because it depicts a solid relationship between African-American males, but because the relationship literally and figuratively is life-altering and life-saving. The relationship follows as most do: first impressions, laying of ground rules, personal history, moral and value judgments, and finally, admiration and respect. The book ends with Damon's moving depiction of his newfound buddy, Blue: One day/I'll be like Blue/Not fierce/In black leather/Or built like/A heavyweight/Boxing machine/But like that/Other Blue I've seen/The one who/Says he cares/And shows it./The one who/Flashes gold/Every time he smiles. Ultimately, through Nikki Grime's poems, we come to understand that Blue, for Damon, is a symbol of trust and a beacon of light in difficult situations. Jerome Lagarrigue's illustrations prove equally powerful. Dark and pensive, they challenge children's imaginations. Lagarrigue's slightly abstracted characters prove essential to the underlying message of My Man Blue, which is that Blue could be anyone even someone young readers might know.

(Ages 6 and up) Crystal Williams is a poet living in Ithaca, New York.

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