Muddy: The Story of Blues Legend Muddy Waters

Book review by
Kyle Jackson, Common Sense Media
Muddy: The Story of Blues Legend Muddy Waters Book Poster Image
Picture book bio of blues great has dazzling art.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Introduces kids to the story of Mississippi Delta blues, a true American art form, through the eyes of one of the genre's greatest heroes. The author's note at the end has some good historical information to add context to the picture book.

Positive Messages

Stay true to yourself and don't give up when life gets hard. As the author writes, "Muddy Waters's journey is a quintessentially American story of struggle, hope, determination, and perseverance."

Positive Role Models & Representations

From a young age, Muddy is fiercely independent ("He never was good at doing what he was told"), talented, and passionate about his craft. Faced with racial discrimination his entire life, Muddy remained resilient and made himself into a huge success while staying true to himself. 

Violence & Scariness

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Muddy: The Story of Blues Legend Muddy Waters is a sweet and simple picture book about a titan of American folk music. The story mostly focuses on Muddy's childhood and early music career, but the book does include an incident when he was a field worker in the rural South in which he confronted a racist boss who called him "boy." 

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What's the story?

MUDDY: THE STORY OF BLUES LEGEND MUDDY WATERS follows the childhood and early career of the popularizer of electric "Chicago" country blues. Beginning with young McKinley Morganfield's upbringing in rural Mississippi, author Michael Mahin traces his journey from cotton fields to Chicago juke joints to Chess Records recording fame. Refusing to compromise on his traditional Delta sound, Muddy makes it big on his own terms, bringing attention to a nearly forgotten strand of traditional music that proved to be popular and relevant once more in the 1960s.

Is it any good?

Light on words but heavy in meaning, this biography really takes readers into the world of the Mississippi Delta in the Jim Crow South. Award-winning illustrator Evan Turk's vibrant watercolor, ink, and collage artwork evoke the gut-bucket sound and feel of the music and the electrifying energy of Chicago, one of the most important cities in black music history. Muddy is a great way to introduce young kids to the rich world of America's folk music traditions, and to expose them to a little bit of the history of a troubled time period and a remarkable individual.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what they learned about the blues in Muddy. Where did it come from? Why was this music important to African-Americans in the years after the end of slavery?

  • Why did so many people leave the South during and after World War II? Was anyone in your family part of this movement?

  • Try drawing a picture of your favorite musician or type of music. What colors will you choose to show what the music sounds like? 

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love music and African-American history

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