cover image Hello, I’m Johnny Cash

Hello, I’m Johnny Cash

G. Neri, illus. by A.G. Ford. Candlewick, $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-7636-6245-5

The boy who became Johnny Cash was born so impoverished that his first name was just two initials, J. R., “that stood for/ nothing.” But, in fact, Johnny Cash had two extraordinary possessions: a voice “as smooth and deep/ as the Mississippi itself” and a gift for writing songs that had a hypnotic, plainspoken intensity. In free-verse poetry and images that recall the emotional directness of WPA murals and photography, Neri (Ghetto Cowboy) and Ford (Under the Same Sun) follow Cash from the grinding poverty and tragedy of his early years to the invention of his signature “boom-chicka-boom sound” and his breakthrough hit, “I Walk the Line.” The images consistently strike a haunting chord—especially a twilight scene on a country road in which Johnny hears his first song on the car radio (“John couldn’t believe/ that was his voice/ going out over/ the airwaves”). Readers will best appreciate this biography after hearing some of Cash’s music—and they won’t want to stop after hearing his story. Ages 9–12. Author’s agent: Edward Necarsulmer IV, Dunow, Carlson & Lerner Literary Agency. Illustrator’s agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. (Sept.)