Books by Muriel Harris Weinstein

Released: Dec. 21, 2010

Weinstein, author of the lighthearted picture book When Louis Armstrong Taught Me Scat, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie (2008), lofts another tribute, this time in short chapters. The subtitle's belied straightaway as the narrator, Armstrong's first cornet, begins opining enthusiastically from the display window of a New Orleans "hock shop." Claiming that Louis would "talk to me as if we were brothers, tell me every note in his life" and invoking Armstrong's lifelong journaling habit, the narrator liberally interjects dialogue and serves as a sort of touchstone for the impoverished boy's musical dreams. Biographical details, mostly sanitized for primary graders, enrich the upbeat text, and although a few of Louis' scrapes with police are highlighted, the emphasis is on Armstrong's extraordinary musical gifts and the appreciation with which they were met, from childhood street quartets through his arrival in Chicago. A glossary defines words like "outhouse" and "vocalist" but not the oft-used term "colored." Best enjoyed as fiction, it's still a resonant first connection to Armstrong's hard-knock beginnings, determination and towering jazz innovations. Illustrations not seen. (afterword, references) (Historical fiction. 7-10)Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 1, 2009

This ebullient tribute to Armstrong as scat innovator opens with a girl and her mom dancing to Satchmo's scatting on the radio. Scat singing inspires the young narrator, who dreams of Armstrong, inviting her to improvise on—what? " ‘How about bubble gum?'/ ‘Sure, bubble gum's hip.' " Six ensuing spreads crank out scat-influenced verse that, after establishing the tempo ("Chew-itee / Chew-itee / Chew-itee / CHOP / Crackity / Snappity / Poppity! / POP!!!"), tangles it in anapestic jungle metaphor ("…lilac moon / butterfly's cocoon / baboon's nose / hippo's toes"). Departing the dream's careening visual and textual imagery, the girl floats back to wakefulness (having blown a bubble as big as a "hot air balloon" with cacophonic results). Enthusiastic, infectious neighborhood scatting ensues. Christie's gorgeous full-bleed pictures blend touching detail (Armstrong's scarred lips, the girl's fuzzy bedroom slippers) with swaths of vibrant, opaque color. Three typefaces, alternating upper- and lower-case, match the verve of the agreeably frenetic text. One quibble: In an appended note on scat, Weinstein unequivocally states, "…before Louis Armstrong, no one sang it professionally." Jazz scholars might disagree. (biographical note) (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >