ELLA FITZGERALD by Andrea Davis Pinkney
Kirkus Star


The Tale of a Vocal Virtuosa
by & illustrated by
Age Range: 5 - 9
Email this review


In this terrific picture-book biography, Scat Cat Monroe, a slick, fast-talking cat tells the story of Ella Fitzgerald, the Queen of Scat. Scat Cat (who shares author credit on the title page) claims to have been there from the start and considers himself the keeper of Ella’s flame. Cleverly organized in four tracks instead of chapters, his account chronicles Fitzgerald’s unlikely debut at an Apollo Theatre talent contest as a 17-year-old who sings only because she’s too scared to dance. From there, it moves to her rousing success with the Chick Webb Orchestra, and then to her eventual teaming up with Dizzy Gillespie, when she would rechart the course of bebop. The prose is jazzy and rhythmic in the voice of a hipster, and it’s expertly illustrated with images inspired by the works of Harlem Renaissance artists, clueing readers to several departure points for further study. In this vein, the team provides useful afterwords explaining their methods and the historical backdrop to the story—complete with bibliography, videography, and selected discography. The design of this effort is quite remarkable; from time to time, words splash across the pages, and change in font and size, effectively mirroring rhythms and meanings. Using Scat Cat as the narrator allows easy access for younger readers, and his in-the-know voice will win over older ones. Anyone who enjoyed the Pinkneys’ other cultural collaborations—Alvin Ailey (1995) and Duke Ellington (1998)—will love what they’ve done with Ella. Others may simply find themselves inspired by these tales of her genius for invention. Cool. (Picture book/biography. 5-9)

Pub Date: April 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-7868-0568-4
Page count: 32pp
Publisher: Hyperion
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 2002


ChildrenTHE GIRL ON THE HIGH-DIVING HORSE by Linda Oatman High
by Linda Oatman High
ChildrenELLA FITZGERALD by Andrea Davis Pinkney
by Andrea Davis Pinkney
ChildrenHOUDINI by Kathleen Krull
by Kathleen Krull
ChildrenBE WATER, MY FRIEND by Ken Mochizuki
by Ken Mochizuki


ChildrenMARTIN RISING by Andrea Davis Pinkney
by Andrea Davis Pinkney
ChildrenA POEM FOR PETER by Andrea Davis Pinkney
by Andrea Davis Pinkney
ChildrenRHYTHM RIDE by Andrea Davis Pinkney
by Andrea Davis Pinkney
ChildrenTHE RED PENCIL by Andrea Davis Pinkney
by Andrea Davis Pinkney


ChildrenJAZZ AGE JOSEPHINE by Jonah Winter
by Jonah Winter
ChildrenBABY FLO by Alan Schroeder
by Alan Schroeder
ChildrenSTRANGE FRUIT by Gary Golio
by Gary Golio
ChildrenBORN TO SWING by Mara Rockliff
by Mara Rockliff
ChildrenHELLO, I'M JOHNNY CASH by G. Neri
by G. Neri