THE BLUES SINGERS by Julius Lester
Kirkus Star


Ten Who Rocked the World
by , illustrated by
Age Range: 7 - 10
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What is clearly a labor of love creates quite an extraordinary collective biography for young people, from a veteran observer. In the introduction, Lester addresses his granddaughter: “One of our jobs is to remember how things used to be so we can tell our grandchildren.” Using the cadences of traditional storytelling and the rhythms of grandfatherly affection he recollects the lives of ten great blues singers. Because he’s speaking in his grandfather persona, he imbues each of these stories with personal experiences and reflections and fills them with references to tie them to children’s own lives: B.B. King still sleeping with a night light on; Whitney Houston as a child watching her mother, Cissy Houston, sing with Aretha Franklin. He also ties these singers to those who followed them: Janis Joplin paying for half of a tombstone to mark Bessie Smith’s grave; the Rolling Stones taking their band name from a Muddy Waters song; Little Richard, in his life as preacher, officiating at the marriages of Cyndi Lauper and Little Steven. Robert Johnson, Mahalia Jackson, Billie Holiday, Ray Charles, and James Brown are included here, too. Beautiful design plays a role, with pulled quotes in vivid colors and multiple typefonts opening up the text blocks of each three-page biography. Each has a full-page image of its subject in bold, black calligraphic filled with strong colors, evoking stained glass. Excellence wears many faces: this works as biography, as source material for school reports, and as compelling storytelling. (bibliography, recommended listening) (Collective biography. 7-10)

Pub Date: May 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-7868-0463-7
Page count: 48pp
Publisher: Disney-Jump at the Sun
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 2001


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