An upbeat introduction to the scrappy origins of a little-known bit of American musical history.

STALEBREAD CHARLIE AND THE RAZZY DAZZY SPASM BAND

Drawing from the little that’s known about Emile “Stalebread Charlie” Lacoume, Mahin presents a fictionalized story about the homeless New Orleanian boys who innovated “spasm band” music, considered one of jazz’s precursors.

In 1895, Stalebread and pal Warm Gravy, both white, live in Storyville, which “smelled like trash and looked like trouble.” The boys steal to eat, constantly dodging the coppers. Hearing a trio playing one night, Stalebread hatches an idea. “Gravy! We’ll start a band. We’ll never be hungry again!” With an old stovepipe to sing through and a pebble-filled can to shake, the boys debut their rhythms—to the neighborhood’s general disdain. “No one liked their music. Not even the alley cats.” A boy called Cajun (the band’s sole kid of color) joins up with his “comb-made kazoo.” Pennywhistler Monk is next, followed by kids on washboard, spoons, and cigar-box fiddle. Though more often chased off than cheered, the boys’ luck finally turns when they bravely improvise for patrons at Mac’s Restaurant and Saloon. Mahin’s jaunty narrative uses occasional rhyme, and onomatopoeic words scroll through in arcing display type. Illustrator Tate’s note mentions finding supporting research for his intentional visual diversity: Among the diverse denizens of Storyville, he depicts a black cop. The text ends abruptly, but Mahin’s note adds lively details.

An upbeat introduction to the scrappy origins of a little-known bit of American musical history. (craft activity) (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: July 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-547-94201-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Clarion

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

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Accessible, reassuring and hopeful.

THE INVISIBLE BOY

This endearing picture book about a timid boy who longs to belong has an agenda but delivers its message with great sensitivity.

Brian wants to join in but is overlooked, even ostracized, by his classmates. Readers first see him alone on the front endpapers, drawing in chalk on the ground. The school scenarios are uncomfortably familiar: High-maintenance children get the teacher’s attention; team captains choose kickball players by popularity and athletic ability; chatter about birthday parties indicates they are not inclusive events. Tender illustrations rendered in glowing hues capture Brian’s isolation deftly; compared to the others and his surroundings, he appears in black and white. What saves Brian is his creativity. As he draws, Brian imagines amazing stories, including a poignant one about a superhero with the power to make friends. When a new boy takes some ribbing, it is Brian who leaves an illustrated note to make him feel better. The boy does not forget this gesture. It only takes one person noticing Brian for the others to see his talents have value; that he has something to contribute. Brian’s colors pop. In the closing endpapers, Brian’s classmates are spread around him on the ground, “wearing” his chalk-drawn wings and capes. Use this to start a discussion: The author includes suggested questions and recommended reading lists for adults and children.

Accessible, reassuring and hopeful. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-582-46450-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2013

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This earnest Latino first-grader who overcomes obstacles and solves mysteries is a winning character

PEDRO, FIRST-GRADE HERO

From the Pedro series , Vol. 1

The creators of the Katie Woo series turn their focus to a peripheral character, first-grader Pedro—Katie’s friend and schoolmate.

Four short chapters—“Pedro Goes Buggy,” “Pedro’s Big Goal,” “Pedro’s Mystery Club,” and “Pedro For President”—highlight a Latino main character surrounded by a superbly diverse cast. At times unsure of himself, Pedro is extremely likable, for he wants to do his best and is a fair friend. He consistently comes out on top, even when his younger brother releases all the bugs he’s captured for a class assignment or when self-assured bully Roddy tries to unite opposition to Pedro’s female opponent (Katie Woo) in the race for first-grade class president. Using a third-person, past-tense narrative voice, Manushkin expands her repertoire by adding a hero comparable to EllRay Jakes. What is refreshing about the book is that for the most part, aside from Roddy’s gender-based bullying, the book overcomes boy-girl stereotypes: girls and boys play soccer, boys and girls run for president, girls and boys hunt for bugs, all setting a progressive standard for chapter books. With mixed-media illustrations featuring colorful bugs, soccer action, a mystery hunt, and a presidential campaign, Lyon’s attention to detail in color and facial expressions complements the story nicely.

This earnest Latino first-grader who overcomes obstacles and solves mysteries is a winning character . (Fiction. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5158-0112-2

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Picture Window Books

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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