Morton’s seminal role in jazz deserves both celebration and elucidation; this disjointed treatment mainly accomplishes the...



Winter offers a speculative look at the life and musical career of jazz innovator Jelly Roll Morton.

Weaving a quasi-poetic text in the second person, an adulatory narrator addresses readers: “Here’s what could’ve happened / if you were born a way down south / in New Orleans, in the Land of Dreams / a long, long time ago.” Talented Morton played piano in bars as a boy; his great-grandmother threw him out for being a “LOWLIFE MUSICIAN.” Regarding this trauma, the narrator contends: “just one thing in the world, / could make the crying stop: // And this is why / and this is how / a thing called JAZZ got invented / by a man named Jelly Roll Morton. / Leastwise, that’s what / I thought I heard Mister Jelly Roll say.” Winter intersperses italicized lyrics from several songs in Morton’s repertoire, adding an invented verse to one. While the text pivots on Morton’s self-promotion as the inventor of jazz (which music historians both debate and dispute), the choice of an unreliable narrator arguably muddies still waters. Mallett’s acrylic paintings use red-golds and blue-blacks to evoke sunset and twilit tableaux filigreed with musical notation. Morton is mostly shown from behind or in silhouette; the cover portrait and one interior one, painted from different decades without attribution, don’t cohere.

Morton’s seminal role in jazz deserves both celebration and elucidation; this disjointed treatment mainly accomplishes the former. (author’s note, recommended listening, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 5-10)

Pub Date: June 16, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-59643-963-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Neal Porter/Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2015

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            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.


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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