PLAY, LOUIS, PLAY!

THE TRUE STORY OF A BOY AND HIS HORN

Weinstein, author of the lighthearted picture book When Louis Armstrong Taught Me Scat, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie (2008), lofts another tribute, this time in short chapters. The subtitle’s belied straightaway as the narrator, Armstrong’s first cornet, begins opining enthusiastically from the display window of a New Orleans “hock shop.”  Claiming that Louis would “talk to me as if we were brothers, tell me every note in his life” and invoking Armstrong’s lifelong journaling habit, the narrator liberally interjects dialogue and serves as a sort of touchstone for the impoverished boy’s musical dreams. Biographical details, mostly sanitized for primary graders, enrich the upbeat text, and although a few of Louis’ scrapes with police are highlighted, the emphasis is on Armstrong’s extraordinary musical gifts and the appreciation with which they were met, from childhood street quartets through his arrival in Chicago. A glossary defines words like “outhouse” and “vocalist” but not the oft-used term “colored.” Best enjoyed as fiction, it’s still a resonant first connection to Armstrong’s hard-knock beginnings, determination and towering jazz innovations. Illustrations not seen. (afterword, references) (Historical fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Dec. 21, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-59990-375-0

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2010

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Deliberately inspirational and tinged with nostalgia, this will please fans but may strike others as overly idealistic.

STICKS AND STONES

Veteran picture-book creator Polacco tells another story from her childhood that celebrates the importance of staying true to one’s own interests and values.

After years of spending summers with her father and grandmother, narrator Trisha is excited to be spending the school year in Michigan with them. Unexpectedly abandoned by her summertime friends, Trisha quickly connects with fellow outsiders Thom and Ravanne, who may be familiar to readers from Polacco’s The Junkyard Wonders (2010). Throughout the school year, the three enjoy activities together and do their best to avoid school bully Billy. While a physical confrontation between Thom (aka “Sissy Boy”) and Billy does come, so does an opportunity for Thom to defy convention and share his talent with the community. Loosely sketched watercolor illustrations place the story in the middle of the last century, with somewhat old-fashioned clothing and an apparently all-White community. Trisha and her classmates appear to be what today would be called middle schoolers; a reference to something Trisha and her mom did when she was “only eight” suggests that several years have passed since that time. As usual, the lengthy first-person narrative is cozily conversational but includes some challenging vocabulary (textiles, lackeys, foretold). The author’s note provides a brief update about her friends’ careers and encourages readers to embrace their own differences. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

Deliberately inspirational and tinged with nostalgia, this will please fans but may strike others as overly idealistic. (Picture book. 7-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-2622-1

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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26 FAIRMOUNT AVENUE

            The legions of fans who over the years have enjoyed dePaola’s autobiographical picture books will welcome this longer gathering of reminiscences.  Writing in an authentically childlike voice, he describes watching the new house his father was building go up despite a succession of disasters, from a brush fire to the hurricane of 1938.  Meanwhile, he also introduces family, friends, and neighbors, adds Nana Fall River to his already well-known Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs, remembers his first day of school (“ ‘ When do we learn to read?’  I asked.  ‘Oh, we don’t learn how to read in kindergarten.  We learn to read next year, in first grade.’  ‘Fine,’ I said.  ‘I’ll be back next year.’  And I walked right out of school.”), recalls holidays, and explains his indignation when the plot of Disney’s “Snow White” doesn’t match the story he knows.  Generously illustrated with vignettes and larger scenes, this cheery, well-knit narrative proves that an old dog can learn new tricks, and learn them surpassingly well.  (Autobiography.  7-9)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-399-23246-X

Page Count: 58

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1999

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