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From the A Child's Introduction to... series

Both anecdotal and encompassing, this attentive introduction ably prepares readers for further learning—and listening.

In nine chronologically arranged sections, with scores of cultural and biographical thumbnails, this encyclopedic look stretches from jazz’s roots in African rhythms to the eclecticism of the contemporary scene.

After establishing a working definition of rhythm, Asim addresses the significance of Congo Square in New Orleans, where enslaved and free Black people congregated on Sundays to dance and make music. There, Cuban, Mexican, French, and local Indigenous musical traditions mingled, setting the stage for regional and global influences to impact jazz. Not unlike jazz’s improvisations, Asim’s narrative nuggets beget each other as players learn from masters like Fletcher Henderson, Duke Ellington, and Count Basie and form their own bands. The Great Migration from the South brings musicians to Chicago, Kansas City, and New York’s Harlem. Cross-pollination—from West Coast to East; from the United States to Europe and back—fertilizes entire scenes. Modern makers mix jazz and hip-hop, sampling midcentury bebop and ’70s fusion in a music defined by innovation. Readers can access audio recordings of instruments and musical styles by scanning QR codes interspersed throughout, and suggestions for significant songs, albums, and performances to seek out appear in the biographical sketches. Polk’s stylized, captioned illustrations deliver fine likenesses of musicians, with attention to variations in Black and brown skin tones. Notably, Asim avoids the role of substance abuse in the lives of many musicians.

Both anecdotal and encompassing, this attentive introduction ably prepares readers for further learning—and listening. (jazz museums and places of interest, index) (Nonfiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Dec. 27, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-7624-7941-2

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Black Dog & Leventhal

Review Posted Online: Sept. 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2022

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An apt choice for collections that already have stronger alternatives, such as R.J. Palacio's Wonder (2012).

A memoir of the first 14 years in the life of Australian Robert Hoge, born with stunted legs and a tumor in the middle of his face.

In 1972, Robert is born, the youngest of five children, with fishlike eyes on the sides of his face, a massive lump in place of his nose, and malformed legs. As baby Robert is otherwise healthy, the doctors convince his parents to approve the first of many surgeries to reduce his facial difference. One leg is also amputated, and Robert comes home to his everyday white, working-class family. There's no particular theme to the tale of Robert's next decade and a half: he experiences school and teasing, attempts to participate in sports, and is shot down by a girl. Vignette-driven choppiness and the lack of an overarching narrative would make the likeliest audience be those who seek disability stories. However, young Robert's ongoing quest to identify as "normal"—a quest that remains unchanged until a sudden turnaround on the penultimate page—risks alienating readers comfortable with their disabilities. Brief lyrical moments ("as compulsory as soggy tomato sandwiches at snack time") appeal but are overwhelmed by the dry, distant prose dominating this autobiography.

An apt choice for collections that already have stronger alternatives, such as R.J. Palacio's Wonder (2012). (Memoir. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-425-28775-0

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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An impeccably researched and told biography of Leonard Bernstein’s musical apprenticeship, from toddlerhood to his conducting debut with the New York Philharmonic at age 25. Rubin traces Lenny’s education, musical influences and enduring friendships. Lenny reveled in mounting elaborate musical productions in Sharon, Mass., his family’s summer community. As a student, he augmented support from his family by giving lessons, accompanying singers, transcribing music and more; the narrative sparkles with details that match its subject’s energy and verve. Especially crystalline are the links drawn between father Sam’s decades-long dismissal of his son’s musical gifts and the consequential importance of mentors and supportive teachers in the young man’s life. In exploring Lenny’s devout Jewish roots and coming of age during the persecution of Jews in Europe, the author reveals how dramatically Bernstein altered the landscape for conductors on the American scene. In an epilogue sketching Bernstein’s later life, she briefly mentions his bisexuality, marriage and children. Drawn from interviews, family memoirs and other print resources, quotations are well-integrated and assiduously attributed. Photos, concert programs, early doodles and letters, excerpts from musical scores and other primary documentation enhance the text. Excellent bookmaking—from type to trim size—complements a remarkable celebration of a uniquely American musical genius. (chronology, biographical sketches, author’s note, discography, bibliography, quotation sources, index) (Biography. 9-12)


Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-58089-344-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: Jan. 8, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2011

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