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A delightful, deliriously happy introduction to an unusual and too-little-known musical form.

A young Jewish child finds connections to past and present in the sounds of klezmer during a visit to grandparents on the Lower East Side of New York City.

At Bubbe and Zayde’s, there are family and friends with whom to share good food, memories of long ago, and a bit of history. Text and illustrations are completely interwoven as the exuberant child leads readers through the visit while focusing on the music itself. The tale is told in joyful bursts of expressive verse set in very large, bold print amid collages of old photos, lines of music notation, and bright, exuberant illustrations filled with movement and whimsy. The grandparents are seen both as hosts and participants in the music. There are also other, racially diverse musicians playing the clarinet, accordion, and violin—the instruments that make up a traditional klezmer band—with a bass added in, to bring it into the 1970s, when klezmer had a rebirth. Much of the language reflects the musical jargon of that era, as in “rock out,” and “strive to jive with new riffs.” The protagonist describes the musical sounds while listening, dancing, and twining around the instruments and their players, taking some turns on the clarinet. The music leaps across the pages, evoking old and new in a kind of jazz that is married to its Eastern European Jewish roots. “L’Chaim! To life!” Klezmer represents it all. A QR code on the back jacket leads readers to a delightful klezmer video.

A delightful, deliriously happy introduction to an unusual and too-little-known musical form. (afterword) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-54159-800-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kar-Ben

Review Posted Online: Aug. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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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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Readers will agree that “Melba Doretta Liston was something special.” (Picture book. 4-8)

Bewitched by the rhythms of jazz all around her in Depression-era Kansas City, little Melba Doretta Liston longs to make music in this fictional account of a little-known jazz great.

Picking up the trombone at 7, the little girl teaches herself to play with the support of her Grandpa John and Momma Lucille, performing on the radio at 8 and touring as a pro at just 17. Both text and illustrations make it clear that it’s not all easy for Melba; “The Best Service for WHITES ONLY” reads a sign in a hotel window as the narrative describes a bigotry-plagued tour in the South with Billie Holiday. But joy carries the day, and the story ends on a high note, with Melba “dazzling audiences and making headlines” around the world. Russell-Brown’s debut text has an innate musicality, mixing judicious use of onomatopoeia with often sonorous prose. Morrison’s sinuous, exaggerated lines are the perfect match for Melba’s story; she puts her entire body into her playing, the exaggerated arch of her back and thrust of her shoulders mirroring the curves of her instrument. In one thrilling spread, the evening gown–clad instrumentalist stands over the male musicians, her slide crossing the gutter while the back bow disappears off the page to the left. An impressive discography complements a two-page afterword and a thorough bibliography.

Readers will agree that “Melba Doretta Liston was something special.” (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: July 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-60060-898-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Lee & Low Books

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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