BRING ON THAT BEAT

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. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-399-23232-X

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2001

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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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This simple and sincere tale of working up courage to face fears makes quite a splash.

JABARI JUMPS

Young Jabari decides today is the day he is going to jump from the diving board, even though it’s a little high and a little scary.

Jabari’s father and baby sister accompany him to the swimming pool in the city, where Jabari has already made up his mind about today’s goal: jumping off the diving board. “I’m a great jumper,” he says, “so I’m not scared at all.” But that’s not entirely true. Readers see Jabari play the waiting game as the other children (a diverse bunch) make their ways past him in line. Once Jabari finally begins to climb up, he slyly remembers that he forgot to “stretch.” The stalling techniques don’t faze his dad, who sees an opportunity for a life lesson. “It’s okay to feel a little scared,” offers his dad at the side of the pool. With renewed will, Jabari returns to the towering diving board, ready to embrace the feat. In her debut, Cornwall places her loving black family at the center, coloring the swimming pool and park beyond in minty hues and adding whimsy with digitally collaged newspaper for skyscrapers. A bird’s-eye view of Jabari’s toes clinging to the edge of the diving board as he looks way, way down at the blue pool below puts readers in his head and in the action.

This simple and sincere tale of working up courage to face fears makes quite a splash. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: May 9, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7636-7838-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2017

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