A-TISKET, A-TASKET

Ella Fitzgerald’s words to this familiar nursery rhyme are coupled with vivacious mixed-media illustrations in sophisticated shades of mustard, lime green, brick red, turquoise, black, and gray. Creative design, beginning with endpapers printed with the musical score of “A-Tisket, A-Tasket” and continuing throughout with unconventional type placement (some spreads must be turned on their sides to be read), echoes the groundbreaking nature of early jazz. The rhyme follows one child, clad in oversize baseball hat and baggy pants, who writes a letter to his mommy, but then drops the basket that holds the precious letter: “On the way I dropped it. I dropped it, I dropped it, my little yellow basket.” A little girl, in a short patterned skirt and gold hoop earrings, picks up the basket, “truckin’ on down the avenue without a single thing to do.” Both children, adult folks who attempt to help locate the basket, and a little dog dance and prance against a colorful urban background of shadowy skyscrapers, street markets, bridges, shops, and parks; the energetic figures are stylized rather than realistic. The ending is happy, as the little girl peeks from behind a tree at the little boy, who is overjoyed at the basket’s recovery. It’s terrific to have Fitzgerald’s child-friendly song available in a visual format, and adult fans of the “First Lady of Jazz” will welcome this opportunity to share her talent with children. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-399-23206-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2002

JOE LOUIS, MY CHAMPION

One of the watershed moments in African-American history—the defeat of James Braddock at the hands of Joe Louis—is here given an earnest picture-book treatment. Despite his lack of athletic ability, Sammy wants desperately to be a great boxer, like his hero, getting boxing lessons from his friend Ernie in exchange for help with schoolwork. However hard he tries, though, Sammy just can’t box, and his father comforts him, reminding him that he doesn’t need to box: Joe Louis has shown him that he “can be the champion at anything [he] want[s].” The high point of this offering is the big fight itself, everyone crowded around the radio in Mister Jake’s general store, the imagined fight scenes played out in soft-edged sepia frames. The main story, however, is so bent on providing Sammy and the reader with object lessons that all subtlety is lost, as Mister Jake, Sammy’s father, and even Ernie hammer home the message. Both text and oil-on-canvas-paper illustrations go for the obvious angle, making the effort as a whole worthy, but just a little too heavy-handed. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: May 1, 2004

ISBN: 1-58430-161-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Lee & Low Books

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2004

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

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