Music Is…

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Image Credit: Simon Kids (Simon & Schuster), Brandon Stosuy/Amy Martin

I’m not a big fan of music. I know that sounds weird. I mean, I enjoy listening to music. Of course there are songs that take me back; the memories connected to those songs are聽so vivid. I always dance and move to a good song or beat. I’m just not INTO music. Some people live and breathe it; they always have headphones on and bump it loud in their car. They talk music, they anticipate music, they live music.

That’s not me but I appreciate music and I love how happily this book celebrates it.

Music Is…has flowing text that begins simply, becomes more lyrical and ends reflectively. Contrasting words like quiet & loud, slow & fast, lo-fi & hi-fi lead to lines like “cymbals that splash and ba-da-ba bass and rat-a-tat-tat drums on a rumbling stage.” Stosuy’s words are great for reading aloud and invite聽discussion. “How is music happy?” “What is lo-fi?” “What does ‘Music is for everyone’ mean?” are just a few questions that children might ask when reading this book and for that reason, it’s a book for all ages! Music-loving parents will want this book to share with their children.

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Image Credit: Simon Kids (Simon & Schuster), Brandon Stosuy/Amy Martin

 

Amy Martin’s illustrations are bold, eye-catching and so diverse. I love how she uses colors that contrast and highlight. Her art shows children that indeed, music is for everyone. Her illustrations match the rhythm of Stosuy’s words and the cover of the book is so bright and inviting!

I hope you’ll check this one out. It’s a pretty cool board book to share and enjoy. 馃檪

 

Recommended for:聽All Ages
Great for: Music, Music History, Diversity, Family, Emotions, Friendship, Relationships, Vocabulary, Humor
Book Info: Music Is… by Brandon Stosuy/Illustrated by Amy Martin, 2016 Little Simon (Simon & Schuster), ISBN: 9781481477024

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Skit-Scat Raggedy Cat Ella Fitzgerald

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Image Credit: Candlewick Press, Roxanne Orgill/Sean Qualls

Ummm hmm.聽Ella’s voice聽is one of my all time favorites. What I like about this picture book is that it tells the story of her early life, when she was just a Raggedy Cat trying to survive.

Ella had a larger than life personality ever since she was a young girl. Growing up in Yonkers, NY, her family didn’t have much but they had plenty of music. 聽Her voice could draw a crowd. She and her friend Charlie learned the newest moves and made a little change on the sidewalks dancing for crowds. It was a time of Jazz Jazz Jazz.聽Her mother passed away suddenly and she ended up on 145th Street in Harlem, living with her aunt. She didn’t get much love there so she searched for something better, on her own.

Ella’s 1938 chart0topper “A Tisket A Tasket” which was included in a movie called Ride ‘Em Cowboy in 1942. Oh look she’s at the back of the bus! 聽>_<

She got into some trouble聽and found herself聽in a school for orphans. They beat the girls, especially the black girls, so she ran away, back to Harlem. She was on the streets and in and out of people’s homes but one day she heard about auditioning at the Apollo Theater and decided to give it a try. The crowd almost ran her off the stage but the聽emcee gave her another chance and she blew them away! Ella started to make a name for herself.聽Despite her plain looks, bandleader Chick Webb gave her a chance to join his band at the Savoy. Ella’s spirit shone through her voice, loud and clear. People loved dancing to her. The band got their first big hit when she聽wrote “A Tisket, A Tasket.” With that song she shot to stardom and didn’t have to worry about food, lack of nice clothes and a place to sleep ever again!

I like Sean Qualls’ art style. He likes to lay his acrylic down a little rough and scratchy and uses a palette of reds, oranges, blues and browns. I love the jazz scenes that show the vibrance of Harlem at its artistic peak. Author Roxane Orgill and Sean Qualls really did an excellent job of pairing story with illustration; when I finished the book, I felt satisfied. I learned so much about聽young Ella and her spirit.

If you’re looking for an excellent biography that celebrates never giving up despite the odds, check out Skit-Scat Raggedy Cat…and go listen to some jazz!

 

Recommended for: 1st Grade and up
Great for: 聽Jazz, Jazz Bands, Music History, History, African-American, Black Girls Rock, Black Girl Magic, Inner Strength, Family, Determination, Discrimination, Jim Crow, Apollo Theater, Harlem, Dance, Black History Month, Black History Month Children鈥檚 Books, Non-fiction, Discussion, Biography
Book Info: Skit-Scat Raggedy Cat Ella Fitzgeraldby Roxane Orgill/Illustrated by Sean Qualls, 2010 Candlewick Press, ISBN: 9780763617332

Freedom in Congo Square

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Image Credit: Little Bee Books (Bonnier Publishing Group), Carole Boston Weatherford/R. Gregory Christie

In this beautiful book, we learn about the slaves of New Orleans who toiled and eagerly anticipated their day of rest because on that day, they headed to Congo Square to let their bodies flow freely and revel in the music and culture of home. Congo Square was their place of freedom, their chance to celebrate who they were and simply enjoy each other鈥檚 company. Eventually Jazz would develop out of the music played at this space.

Freedom in Congo Square has an excellent Forward and Author鈥檚 Note that I highly recommend reading. Taking time to summarize and teach the history is important because it adds to the experience of the book. Children with knowledge聽of slavery will easily understand how important a day to rest, a day to celebrate was to slaves. It鈥檚 easy to see the joy and relief in their bodies as they dance and sing and drum. Weatherford鈥檚 poetic language and description of plantation life during each day of the week builds anticipation for what readers know is coming, that glorious Sunday.

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Image Credit: Little Bee Books (Bonnier Publishing Group), Carole Boston Weatherford/R. Gregory Christie

The rhythm and rhyme of this book is great for reading aloud to children and Weatherford always has the coolest illustrators for her books. Leontyne Price: Voice of a Century is both textually and visually gorgeous. Freedom in Congo Square is no different. Christie鈥檚 collaged paintings are inspiring; the slaves have black, beautiful skin highlighted with blue-gray and long, limber bodies. Their long limbs are bent over in the cotton field BUT are also outstretched in jubilation at Congo Square. I love the bright, joyful colors of his paints and the cover of the book is striking with its use of yellow and black.

This is an excellent book that tells the story of an important safe and creative space for enslaved people during Slavery. What a great new release for 2016! If your family takes a trip down to New Orleans, why not add Congo Square to your list of places to visit?

 

Recommended for: 1st-2nd聽Grade and Up
Great for: History, Slavery, Celebration, Determination, Music, Music History, New Orleans, Community, Family, We Need Diverse Books, Diversity, Cultural Diversity, Oppression, Spirituality, Discussion, Days of the Week, Rhyme, Rhythm, Read Aloud, Jazz, African American, Africa
Book Info: Freedom in Congo Square聽by Carole Boston Weatherford/Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie, 2016聽Little Bee Books (Bonnier Publishing Group), ISBN: 9781499801033

Little Melba and Her Big Trombone

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Image Credit: Lee and Low Books Inc., Katheryn Russell-Brown/Frank Morrison

 

A little girl picked up a big instrument and made a big sound that would rock the jazz world.

In recent years, there’s been a surge in excellent music biographies about women; I’ve already reviewed great books about Leontyne Price and聽Millo Castro Zaldarriaga. What attracted me to this biography of Melba Doretta Liston is that she is a Black female musician.聽Sure history remembers and celebrates many great Black female singers but musicians? Not really. I’d never heard of this woman until this book. Jazz fans, is she well known? I certainly hope so…

Melba Doretta Liston grew up with music in her blood and luckily she lived in the thriving, jazz town of Kansas City in the 20s when it was a mecca of #BlackCreativity. Like Millo and Leontyne, she dreamed and lived music and when she was seven years old, her mama bought her a shiny new trombone. Her grandpa helped build her confidence and skill and in no time, she was blowing and making waves on the radio. Her family moved to LA and Melba continued to shine. She began touring the country with a band in the 40s, arranging music and throwing down. Her sound and skill was glorious. Unfortunately she and her band faced segregation and racism on their trips down South but Melba didn’t let that stop her. She’d continue to make music for years to come, touring the world, writing music and being true to her craft.

Morrison’s art is so dynamic. Limber bodies sway to the beat, round smiling brown cheeks, energetic musicians and Melba, the star, takes full control of that huge yellow trombone. His oil paintings embody jazz. Be sure to check out this awesome biography; Melba is someone to know and remember.

P.S. What a great cover, right? 馃槈 She’s sttrreeettchhing from edge to edge.

Recommended for:聽All Ages, especially 1st grade and up
Great for: Girl Power, Diversity, Music, Music History, Girls in Music, We Need Diverse Books, Determination, Family, Jazz, Dreams, Segregation, Community, Biography, African-American, BlackGirlsRock, Non-Fiction
Book Info: Little Melba and Her Big Trombone聽by Katheryn Russell-Brown/Illustrated by Frank Morrison, 2014 Lee and Low Books Inc.,聽ISBN: 9781600608988

Drum Dream Girl

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Image Credit: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Margarita Engle/Rafael L贸pez

Do you feel the beat? Have a desire to make music and feel rhythm in everything around you? Cuban-American poet Margarita Engle鈥檚 new picture book is about the Cuban drummer Millo Castro Zaldarriaga who dared to drum when it was taboo for a girl to do so.

Drum Dream Girl dreams of drums; she can鈥檛 help it because the music is a part of her but on her island of Cuba in the 30s,聽only boys can drum and even her father discourages her drumming. She continues to dream in drumbeats and every sound is a rhythm. Despite what everyone thinks, she drums and drums and even joins an all girl dance band formed by her sisters. Though he tells her once again that she shouldn’t play the drums,聽her father finally comes around and takes her to a teacher who nurtures her talent and helps her grow into a gifted drummer. Millo Castro Zaldarriaga would go on to be a world famous musician and her music, her defiance and passion, would inspire female musicians in her home and no doubt, around the world.

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Image Credit: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Margarita Engle/Rafael L贸pez

Passion, color, music and hope fill the pages through Raphael L贸pez鈥檚 glowing illustrations. He uses acrylic paint to create warm brown skin, large hands, wide expressive eyes, colorful flowers and birds and these details bring the island of Cuba to life. There鈥檚 often a smiling sun or moon shining down on Millo as she drum-dreams. Similar to Raul Col贸n鈥檚 illustrations in Leontyne Price: Voice of a Century, L贸pez draws a whirling strand of colorful ribbons to depict music. Engle’s poetry is beautifully descriptive and great for reading aloud.聽Drum Dream Girl will inspire you to learn more about Millo and it will make聽you feel like you鈥檙e in Cuba, sitting in a caf茅 on a hot summer night, sipping a drink and enjoying the sound of drums.

P.S. If you’re looking for more info about Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, check out the book Anacaona:聽The Amazing Adventures of Cuba’s First All-Girl Dance Band by Alicia Castro,聽published by Atlantic Books, London, 2007. Thanks for the info Margarita Engle and Tony Koehler! 聽馃檪

 

Recommended for:聽All Ages
Great for: Defiance, Non-Fiction, Diversity, We Need Diverse Books,聽Read-Aloud, Rhythm, Family, Poetry, Gender Non Conformity, Girl Power, Music, Music History, Cuba, Dreams, Drums, Biography, Jazz, Girls in Music, Black History Month, Black History Month Children’s Books
Book Info: Drum Dream Girl聽by Margarita Engle/Illustrated by Rafael聽L贸pez, 2015 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt,聽ISBN: 9780544102293

 

When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc & the Creation of Hip Hop

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Image Credit: Roaring Brook Press (Macmillan Kids), Laban Carrick Hill/Theodore Taylor III

 

When the Beat Was Born is the perfect example of how a 鈥減icture book鈥 can be used to explore current events, modern history and socially relevant topics. Laban Carrick Hill gives us just enough to peak our interest in hip hop history.

The story begins in Kingston, Jamaica in the 70s with Clive Campbell鈥檚 budding passion for music. Though he was too young, he wanted to go to the awesome house parties thrown by DJ King George. He also admired his enormous records collection. Soon he moved to NYC with his mom and though he didn鈥檛 fit in at first, he was great at sports, grew to be a large boy and gained the nickname “Kool Herc.” His dad bought an impressive sound system for the house and he began spinning and filled the Bronx with his sound. Next thing he new, he was throwing parties and people were coming from all over NYC. People danced during the breaks (break dancing) and soon enough, he was a DJ鈥nd hip hop was born!

At the back of the book, Hill adds his own reflections and personal experience with the early days of hip hop. This personalization really adds something special to the book. There鈥檚 also a nifty hip hop timeline that puts everything in place historically; there were multiple players who contributed to the creation of hip hop as we know it today. Theodore Taylor III鈥檚 illustrations are funky and bold and bring the parties to life. The dark colors he uses create the feeling of a nighttime party and a dark, thriving club scene.

When the Beat Was Born is great for hip hop heads, for hip hop heads who just had a baby, for hip hop head teachers who want their kids to learn about the origins of hip hop and for any person who wants to learn something new! 馃檪 聽The possibilities of this book are endless for any history and music lover. Check out this book and be inspired to look up the origins of hip hop!

Recommended for: 2nd Grade and up
Great for: History, Diversity, African-American, We Need Diverse Books, Music, Hip Hop, DJ, Music History, Social Issues, Community, Pop Culture, Biography, Non-Fiction
Book Info: When the Beat Was Born聽by Laban Carrick Hill/Illustrated by Theodore Taylor III, 2013 Roaring Brook Press (Macmillan Kids),聽ISBN: 9781596435407