BRING ON THAT BEAT by Rachel Isadora


by & illustrated by
Age Range: 4 - 8
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An unusual attempt to convey the feeling and sound of jazz in pictures. Billed as a “tribute to Duke Ellington, with a nod toward Klee and Kandinsky,” this opens almost entirely in black and white, wordlessly panning over the streets of Depression-era Harlem, the only spot of color being the giant neon “JAZZ” sign. And then the musicians begin to play: their instruments send blobs and jags of color splattering over the page, a visual evocation of the complex harmonies of Ellington’s compositions. As the music picks up, pedestrians become dancers, until the whole city is grooving. Isadora’s (Nick Plays Baseball, 2001, etc.) “camera” pulls further and further back, until the viewer sees first the neighborhood, with people dancing on the rooftops, and then the whole city lit up, darts of color zooming out toward the viewer. It’s a novel and largely successful pictorial imaging of sound in a mostly silent medium. But there are words to be read aloud, and this text, a series of slangy rhyming couplets, lacks the syncopated inventiveness of either the illustrations or Ellington’s music itself. One remarkable spread depicts children, in yellow, orange, and red silhouette dancing on a piano keyboard, with Ellington’s face and the jazzy blobs of color superimposed over skyscrapers in the background; the text reads, “Duke Ellington / King o’ the sun. / Cool as a cat, / He’s where it’s at.” Buy this, put on an Ellington CD, and let the illustrations swing. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-399-23232-X
Page count: 32pp
Publisher: Putnam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 2001


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