Grimes, Nikki. 1999. MY MAN BLUE.
Ill. by Jerome Lagarrigue. New
York: Dial Books. ISBN: 0-8037-2326-1
My Man Blue is a book
of poems that tells the story of a man and a young boy becoming friends in an urban neighborhood. The man, Blue, lost his son to the street, and later finds a relationship with Damon, the young boy. Damon’s laugh reminds Blue of the son he lost.
The two males bond with each other – playing basketball, eating, and talking about life’s ups and downs.
The young boy finds comfort and
security in Blue – even though Damon considers himself as “the man of the house.” Damon’s mother is a single parent and Blue is her childhood friend.
Although, when Damon first met Blue, he was reluctant to even talk to him, Damon quickly learns that he and Blue need
each other in their lives.
Nikki Grimes’ book of poetry
focuses on memories and emotions that friends and family experience throughout life.
It is very realistic and deals heavily with how adult males have such an impact and influence on young males and also
vice versa. The ending poem, “Like Blue,” shows evidence of how Damon
desires to be like Blue, who “cares and shows it.”
It is interesting to see how the
author built Blue’s character. He is described physically as a “rugged
dude” who looks “fierce in clothes.” His caring and loving
attitude does not exactly fit the mold of the “harmless gentle-giant side.”
My Man Blue is a narrative
poem because it tells a story. The book is easy to understand and straightforward. The poems contain very descriptive words – allusions such as “leather
skin,” and “work-proud calluses.” There is also an example
of personification used in the “Grounded” poem as Damon talks about how “asthma stole” is weekend
Each poem within the book is accompanied
by a very detailed illustration. The full-colored pictures have been created
with acrylic paint, providing illustrious color in uniquely created colors. The
pictures assist the poems in defining the characters, Blue and Damon. In the
first poem, “My Man Blue,” his leathery skin is shown in the illustration with the use of the dark and rough colors
used by the illustrator.
The titles of the poems direct the
reader to the understanding of the story’s plot. It tells of how the two
males met, their discussion of Blue’s lost son, Blue training Damon to be fearless, Damon being taught to respect females
and not hit them, and how Damon admires and learns to respect Blue. Blue has
taught Damon how to be a man and how to take care of women- regardless if others tease him about it (the kids at school were
not as mature as Damon and often teased him for not hitting a girl who had hit him).
Nikki Grimes’ My
Man Blue teaches real life lessons and it shows how poetry can be used to do so.
The book is combined with realism and imagery. In addition, Jerome Lagarrigue’s
illustrations show the sensitive and bold humanistic components of people going through real life situations.