Young Willie Jerome is up on the roof of a Harlem tenement blowing his horn. The trills and riffs are sweet music to his...

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WILLIE JEROME

Young Willie Jerome is up on the roof of a Harlem tenement blowing his horn. The trills and riffs are sweet music to his sister Judy's ears, but no one else in the neighborhood is moved: not the grocer, not the stoop sitters, not his brother, and especially not his mother. Narrator Judy bebops to the melody; she tries to convince others to give his hot rooftop jazz a chance, but all they hear is a lot of noise. Finally the girl coaxes her mother to close her eyes and open her soul to the music (a sentimental, adult idea, perhaps, but Judy's demonstrated sensitivity brings substance to her words). Willie Jerome doesn't let them down. Duncan's sharp, laconic text is appealingly cadenced -- a smart prose poem where every word has a purpose: ""I been groovin' to his noonday songs. That's why I got this smile on my face. That's why I got this bop in my stride."" It's the language of the city, and so too are the voluptuous, moody oil paintings. The artwork pulls readers right in. Here are palpable urban tableaux: readers will feel summer's lazy drift, sense the heat rising off the sidewalk. Judy's pleasure in the music is evident in every gesture; in the depictions of Willie Jerome, his obsession becomes a triumph -- and he becomes heroic. A fine tribute to going one's own way.

Pub Date: April 1, 1995

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1995