An appealing and informative composition aimed at a younger audience than Marilyn Nelson and Jerry Pinkney’s Sweethearts of...

SWING SISTERS

THE STORY OF THE INTERNATIONAL SWEETHEARTS OF RHYTHM

Women! Jazz! Integration!

In 1909, Dr. Laurence Clifton Jones founded a school and orphanage for black children in Mississippi, and in 1939, he started an all-girl swing band: the Sweethearts of Rhythm. Swing “was filled with energy!” The girls performed locally and throughout the country. In 1945, they played to enthusiastic soldiers as part of a USO tour brought about by a letter-writing campaign from African-American GIs. Writing in a folksy style, Deans describes the lives of the girls in the orphanage and on the road in Jim Crow territory; this, ironically, was made even more difficult after the band integrated. The infectious joy of swing music comes across nicely with details about instrumentation and performances. A scary encounter with the police is also described. Cepeda’s colorful and richly textured full-bleed acrylic-and-oil paintings match the mostly upbeat mood with illustrations of the women happily playing various instruments, joyfully askew compositions evoking the big-band beat. The group did not stay together, but the final illustration opens the way for more music as a now-elderly Sweetheart hands over her trumpet to a smiling girl. Readers will certainly want to grab recordings and dance and swing to the sounds.

An appealing and informative composition aimed at a younger audience than Marilyn Nelson and Jerry Pinkney’s Sweethearts of Rhythm (2009). (author’s note, selected bibliography) (Informational picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8234-1970-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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Upbeat and celebratory—like Pops himself.

JUST A LUCKY SO AND SO

THE STORY OF LOUIS ARMSTRONG

Cline-Ransome traces Armstrong’s storied arc, from an impoverished New Orleans childhood to his apex as a giant of jazz.

The episodic narrative, studded with place names, locates in “Little Louis’ ” tough early days the keys to his musical education. Louis helps his family by hauling coal, selling newspapers, and picking through garbage. New Orleans’ omnipresent music permeates his being: “Every day, outside his window, Little Louis listened up and down the streets, to the music of brass bands, funeral marches, honky-tonks on Saturday nights.” Captivated by brilliant cornetist Joe “King” Oliver, Louis buys a pawn-shop cornet, harmonizes in a street band—and runs afoul of the police once too often. Sent to the Colored Waif’s Home for Boys, Louis “missed his mama, his sister, and his cornet.” The facility has a performing band, however—and Louis wins over its teacher. In one of several interspersed (but undocumented) quotes, Armstrong quips: “Me and music got married at the home.” Released at 14, he apprentices with Oliver, plays in his bands, and follows him to Chicago and beyond. Ransome’s vivid, saturated paintings depict cityscapes and riverboats, framing Armstrong in windows and rectangular insets, and capturing the music’s joy in paradegoers’ faces. A nuanced author’s note features a detail about Louis’ uncorrected embouchure, and resources include eight well-annotated websites for multimedia study.

Upbeat and celebratory—like Pops himself. (Picture book/biography. 6-9)

Pub Date: April 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8234-3428-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2016

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A crisp historical vignette.

BEN'S REVOLUTION

BENJAMIN RUSSELL AND THE BATTLE OF BUNKER HILL

A boy experiences the Boston Tea Party, the response to the Intolerable Acts, and the battle at Breed’s Hill in Charlestown.

Philbrick has taken his Bunker Hill (2013), pulled from its 400 pages the pivotal moments, added a 12-year-old white boy—Benjamin Russell—as the pivot, and crafted a tale of what might have happened to him during those days of unrest in Boston from 1773 to 1775 (Russell was a real person). Philbrick explains, in plainspoken but gradually accelerating language, the tea tax, the Boston Tea Party, the Intolerable Acts, and the quartering of troops in Boston as well as the institution of a military government. Into this ferment, he introduces Benjamin Russell, where he went to school, his part-time apprenticeship at Isaiah Thomas’ newspaper, sledding down Beacon Hill, and the British officer who cleaned the cinders from the snow so the boys could sled farther and farther. It is these humanizing touches that make war its own intolerable act. Readers see Benjamin, courtesy of Minor’s misty gouache-and-watercolor tableaux, as he becomes stranded outside Boston Neck and becomes a clerk for the patriots. Significant characters are introduced, as is the geography of pre-landfilled Boston, to gain a good sense of why certain actions took place where they did. The final encounter at Breed’s Hill demonstrates how a battle can be won by retreating.

A crisp historical vignette. (maps, author’s note, illustrator’s note) (Historical fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: May 23, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-16674-7

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 14, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2017

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