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People fleeing the south to the north

My Hands Sing the Blues: Romare Bearden's Childhood Journey

My Hands Sing the Blues

My Hands Sing the Blues: Romare Bearden's Childhood Journey






Elizabeth Zunon

Marshall Cavendish (Two Lions)

5–8 years



As a young boy growing up in North Carolina, Romare Bearden listened to his great-grandmother’s Cherokee stories and heard the whistle of the train that took his people to the North—people who wanted to be free. When Romare boarded that same train, he watched out the window as the world whizzed by. Later he captured those scenes in a famous painting, Watching the Good Trains Go By. Using that painting as inspiration and creating a text influenced by the jazz that Bearden loved, Jeanne Walker Harvey describes the patchwork of daily southern life that Romare saw out the train’s window and the story of his arrival in shimmering New York City. Artists and critics today praise Bearden’s collages for their visual metaphors honoring his past, African American culture, and the human experience. Elizabeth Zunon’s illustrations of painted scenes blended with collage are a stirring tribute to a remarkable artist.

Vector Awards Ribbon
  • International Reading Association (IRA) Children's and Young Adult's Book Award Winner – Primary Category

  • New York Public Library's Best Books to Read and Share – Picture Book Category

  • Bank Street List of Best Children's Books of the Year – Biography Category

  • Gelett Burgess Center for Creative Expression Gold Medal for Picture Book Artist Biography

  • Moonbeam Children's Book Award – Tied for Gold for Picture Book All Ages


text copyright (c) 2011 Jeanne Walker Harvey

illustrations copyright (c) 2011 Elizabeth Zunon 


My Hands Sing the Blues:
Romare Bearden's Childhood Journey

“A lively introduction to the artist for young children and for older readers, too”

— Booklist

Bird from My Hands Sing the Blues

“The interplay of poetic and visual metaphor makes for a striking presentation”

— Kirkus Reviews

“[T]his homage to the artist incorporates his love of the blues and jazz and takes the shape of a standard blues song with its repetition and varying rhythms . . . A great addition to an existing collection of art books”

— School Library Journal

“A soft-spoken exploration of the ways in which experience is transformed into art”

— Publisher Weekly

“This book gives teachers and librarians an excellent source of the Great Migration North, life in the north and south, and how children can be inspired by it all . . . Children will stay attentive to the innovatively written text and colorful illustrations. Recommended.”

— Library Media Connection

Romare Bearden - River Mist


Create a Collage Art Project
Inspired by Romare Bearden

by San Francisco Museum of Modern Art + San Francisco Public Library

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