Kirkus Reviews QR Code
SWEETHEARTS OF RHYTHM by Marilyn Nelson Kirkus Star


The Story of the Greatest All-Girl Swing Band in the World

by Marilyn Nelson & illustrated by Jerry Pinkney

Age Range: 10 - 14

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-8037-3187-5
Publisher: Dial

Nelson brings her signature poetic treatment of history to this outstanding collaboration with illustrator Pinkney about a racially integrated “all-girl swing band” that toured the United States during World War II. Comprehensive backmatter grounds the poems and illustrations in research while inviting reflection on the creative process. The book proper is a stellar integration of art and text: Each poem adopts the retrospective voices of the band members’ instruments, while watercolor illustrations enhanced with collage elements place their music-making in rich period detail that evokes the war, Rosie the Riveter, segregation and internment camps. The poet doesn’t miss a beat as she fittingly employs swinging, triple meters capturing the essence of big-band sound and highlighting the transcendent joy that the Sweethearts’ music brought to audiences at the Apollo, the Cotton Club, in smaller venues and even overseas in a postwar USO concert. The illustrator is at his best in the wordless full-bleed doublespreads interspersed throughout the book, which set a contemplative pace that invites flipping back and forth through the pages documenting the Sweethearts’ travels, triumphs and travails. (Picture book/poetry. 10-14)