WHEN LOUIS ARMSTRONG TAUGHT ME SCAT

This ebullient tribute to Armstrong as scat innovator opens with a girl and her mom dancing to Satchmo’s scatting on the radio. Scat singing inspires the young narrator, who dreams of Armstrong, inviting her to improvise on—what? “ ‘How about bubble gum?’/ ‘Sure, bubble gum’s hip.’ ” Six ensuing spreads crank out scat-influenced verse that, after establishing the tempo (“Chew-itee / Chew-itee / Chew-itee / CHOP / Crackity / Snappity / Poppity! / POP!!!”), tangles it in anapestic jungle metaphor (“…lilac moon / butterfly’s cocoon / baboon’s nose / hippo’s toes”). Departing the dream’s careening visual and textual imagery, the girl floats back to wakefulness (having blown a bubble as big as a “hot air balloon” with cacophonic results). Enthusiastic, infectious neighborhood scatting ensues. Christie’s gorgeous full-bleed pictures blend touching detail (Armstrong’s scarred lips, the girl’s fuzzy bedroom slippers) with swaths of vibrant, opaque color. Three typefaces, alternating upper- and lower-case, match the verve of the agreeably frenetic text. One quibble: In an appended note on scat, Weinstein unequivocally states, “…before Louis Armstrong, no one sang it professionally.” Jazz scholars might disagree. (biographical note) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-8118-5131-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2009

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Sincere and wholehearted.

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I PROMISE

The NBA star offers a poem that encourages curiosity, integrity, compassion, courage, and self-forgiveness.

James makes his debut as a children’s author with a motivational poem touting life habits that children should strive for. In the first-person narration, he provides young readers with foundational self-esteem encouragement layered within basketball descriptions: “I promise to run full court and show up each time / to get right back up and let my magic shine.” While the verse is nothing particularly artful, it is heartfelt, and in her illustrations, Mata offers attention-grabbing illustrations of a diverse and enthusiastic group of children. Scenes vary, including classrooms hung with student artwork, an asphalt playground where kids jump double Dutch, and a gym populated with pint-sized basketball players, all clearly part of one bustling neighborhood. Her artistry brings black and brown joy to the forefront of each page. These children evince equal joy in learning and in play. One particularly touching double-page spread depicts two vignettes of a pair of black children, possibly siblings; in one, they cuddle comfortably together, and in the other, the older gives the younger a playful noogie. Adults will appreciate the closing checklist of promises, which emphasize active engagement with school. A closing note very generally introduces principles that underlie the Lebron James Family Foundation’s I Promise School (in Akron, Ohio). (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at 15% of actual size.)

Sincere and wholehearted. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-297106-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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Not astonishingly go-out-and-buy-it-at-graduation inspirational, but all it takes is one seed of change to be planted.

GOING PLACES

Imagination soars—quite literally—when a little girl follows her own set of rules.

Every year Oak Hill School has a go-kart race called the Going Places contest. Students are given identical go-kart kits with a precise set of instructions. And of course, every single kart ends up exactly the same. Every one, that is, except Maya’s. Maya is a dreamy artist, and she would rather sketch birds in her backyard than get caught up in the competition. When she finally does start working, she uses the parts in the go-kart box but creates something completely different. No one ever said it had to be a go-kart. Maya’s creative thinking inspires Rafael, her neighbor (and the most enthusiastic Going Places contestant), to ask to team up. The instructions never say they couldn’t work together, either! An ode to creativity and individuality to be sure, but the Reynolds brothers are also taking a swipe at modern education: Endless repetition and following instructions without question create a culture of conformity. Hopefully now, readers will see infinite possibility every time the system hands them an identical go-kart box.

Not astonishingly go-out-and-buy-it-at-graduation inspirational, but all it takes is one seed of change to be planted. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-6608-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2014

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