DOUBLE BASS BLUES

Simple language complements complex paintings to create the perfect literary melody.

A young musician is inspired by the beat and rhythm of his commute.

Nic’s journey begins with an enthusiastic “Ziiiiiiiiiiip!” and a contemplative “Hummmmm…” as he’s applauded in orchestra. Then, with his double bass strapped to his back, he trades the trees and space of his suburban school for towering buildings and city buses. He dodges dogs, bullies, and rain, hustling home to warm hugs and a jazz jam session replete with onomatopoeic improvisations taken from his commute. The, “whoosh” of the bus’s windshield wipers pairs with the plunk” of rain and the “clap” of his classmates as Nic releases the sounds and sights of the afternoon through his music. Acrylic-paint illustrations include geometric squiggles and swirls that outline and emphasize musical vibrations and the spare, expressive text. Defined shapes are rendered in a vibrant palette that brings out the range of colors present in the characters’ skin tones. Nic, who presents black, is a blend of blues, blacks, golds, and reds, with his boxy, spiked hair a muted mixture of oranges, browns, pinks, and greens. One exceptional double-page spread uses interlocking triangles to separate scenes that capture Nic’s movement from the suburbs to the city. This journey is also expressed in the stenciled endpapers, the front showing Nic in his orchestra and the back, at home, jamming.

Simple language complements complex paintings to create the perfect literary melody. (Picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-1852-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: July 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

THERE'S A ROCK CONCERT IN MY BEDROOM

Nice enough but not worth repeat reads.

Emma deals with jitters before playing the guitar in the school talent show.

Pop musician Kevin Jonas and his wife, Danielle, put performance at the center of their picture-book debut. When Emma is intimidated by her very talented friends, the encouragement of her younger sister, Bella, and the support of her family help her to shine her own light. The story is straightforward and the moral familiar: Draw strength from your family and within to overcome your fears. Employing the performance-anxiety trope that’s been written many times over, the book plods along predictably—there’s nothing really new or surprising here. Dawson’s full-color digital illustrations center a White-presenting family along with Emma’s three friends of color: Jamila has tanned skin and wears a hijab; Wendy has dark brown skin and Afro puffs; and Luis has medium brown skin. Emma’s expressive eyes and face are the real draw of the artwork—from worry to embarrassment to joy, it’s clear what she’s feeling. A standout double-page spread depicts Emma’s talent show performance, with a rainbow swirl of music erupting from an amp and Emma rocking a glam outfit and electric guitar. Overall, the book reads pretty plainly, buoyed largely by the artwork. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Nice enough but not worth repeat reads. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: March 29, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-35207-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

LITTLE MELBA AND HER BIG TROMBONE

Readers will agree that “Melba Doretta Liston was something special.” (Picture book. 4-8)

Bewitched by the rhythms of jazz all around her in Depression-era Kansas City, little Melba Doretta Liston longs to make music in this fictional account of a little-known jazz great.

Picking up the trombone at 7, the little girl teaches herself to play with the support of her Grandpa John and Momma Lucille, performing on the radio at 8 and touring as a pro at just 17. Both text and illustrations make it clear that it’s not all easy for Melba; “The Best Service for WHITES ONLY” reads a sign in a hotel window as the narrative describes a bigotry-plagued tour in the South with Billie Holiday. But joy carries the day, and the story ends on a high note, with Melba “dazzling audiences and making headlines” around the world. Russell-Brown’s debut text has an innate musicality, mixing judicious use of onomatopoeia with often sonorous prose. Morrison’s sinuous, exaggerated lines are the perfect match for Melba’s story; she puts her entire body into her playing, the exaggerated arch of her back and thrust of her shoulders mirroring the curves of her instrument. In one thrilling spread, the evening gown–clad instrumentalist stands over the male musicians, her slide crossing the gutter while the back bow disappears off the page to the left. An impressive discography complements a two-page afterword and a thorough bibliography.

Readers will agree that “Melba Doretta Liston was something special.” (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: July 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-60060-898-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Lee & Low Books

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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