THE COSMOBIOGRAPHY OF SUN RA

THE SOUND OF JOY IS ENLIGHTENING

This tribute to the innovative jazz keyboardist and band leader synthesizes brilliant paintings with a narrative that strikes just the right chords for its audience.

Born Herman Blount, aka Sonny, Sun Ra was an adept pianist by age 11 and gigging as an Alabama teen. A conscientious objector during World War II, Sun Ra thereafter dove into Chicago’s vibrant jazz and blues scene. He and his band, the Arkestra, moved to New York in the 1960s, baffling some but pleasing jazz giants like Monk and Dizzy. Later based in Philadelphia, Sun Ra and company traveled the globe. Raschka respectfully embeds Sun Ra’s iconoclastic philosophical perspective into the narrative, adopting a playfully conspiratorial tone: “Sun Ra always said that he came from Saturn. / Now, you know and I know that this is silly…. / And yet. / If he did come from Saturn, it would explain so much. / Let’s say he did come from Saturn.” Raschka likens the Arkestra to sailors bound for “a new world of sound” and calls their sleep-averse, bookstore-roaming leader “an intergalactic boulevardier.” Incorporating musical notation sheets into luminous watercolor-and-ink pictures, Raschka repeats their horizontal lines in piano strings, library bookshelves, city blocks and the very rectangularity of many compositions. The joyful palette—yellow, red, blue-green, sienna—and wildly gestural black ink celebrate Sun Ra’s unique spirit.  

Unequivocally stellar. (biographical note, selected discography in both aftermatter and on illuminated endpapers) (Picture book/biography. 6-9)

Pub Date: May 13, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7636-5806-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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26 FAIRMOUNT AVENUE

            The legions of fans who over the years have enjoyed dePaola’s autobiographical picture books will welcome this longer gathering of reminiscences.  Writing in an authentically childlike voice, he describes watching the new house his father was building go up despite a succession of disasters, from a brush fire to the hurricane of 1938.  Meanwhile, he also introduces family, friends, and neighbors, adds Nana Fall River to his already well-known Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs, remembers his first day of school (“ ‘ When do we learn to read?’  I asked.  ‘Oh, we don’t learn how to read in kindergarten.  We learn to read next year, in first grade.’  ‘Fine,’ I said.  ‘I’ll be back next year.’  And I walked right out of school.”), recalls holidays, and explains his indignation when the plot of Disney’s “Snow White” doesn’t match the story he knows.  Generously illustrated with vignettes and larger scenes, this cheery, well-knit narrative proves that an old dog can learn new tricks, and learn them surpassingly well.  (Autobiography.  7-9)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-399-23246-X

Page Count: 58

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1999

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Make space for this clever blend of science and self-realization.

A PLACE FOR PLUTO

If Pluto can’t be a planet—then what is he?

Having been a regular planet for “the better part of forever,” Pluto is understandably knocked out of orbit by his sudden exclusion. With Charon and his four other moons in tow he sets off in search of a new identity. Unfortunately, that only spins him into further gloom, as he doesn’t have a tail like his friend Halley’s comet, is too big to join Ida and the other asteroids, and feels disinclined to try to crash into Earth like meteoroids Gem and Persi. Then, just as he’s about to plunge into a black hole of despair, an encounter with a whole quartet of kindred spheroids led by Eris rocks his world…and a follow-up surprise party thrown by an apologetic Saturn (“Dwarf planet has a nice RING to it”) and the other seven former colleagues literally puts him “over the moon.” Demmer gives all the heavenly bodies big eyes (some, including the feminine Saturn, with long lashes) and, on occasion, short arms along with distinctive identifying colors or markings. Dressing the troublemaking meteoroids in do-rags and sunglasses sounds an off note. Without mentioning that the reclassification is still controversial, Wade closes with a (somewhat) straighter account of Pluto’s current official status and the reasons for it.

Make space for this clever blend of science and self-realization. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68446-004-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Capstone Young Readers

Review Posted Online: April 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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