IF I ONLY HAD A HORN: Young Louis Armstrong by Roxanne Orgill

IF I ONLY HAD A HORN: Young Louis Armstrong

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Less prettified than Alan Schroeder's recent Satchmo's Blues (1996), the story of how Louis Armstrong got his first horn. As Orgill tells it in her first book for children, Armstrong himself gave conflicting accounts of how he came by his first horn; here, his first instrument was actually a bugle that he played in reform school, where he was sent after being arrested for shooting a .38 in the street on New Year's Eve. Later the school's band director entrusted him with a battered cornet, and Louis went on to lead the band in a triumphant parade through his old New Orleans neighborhood. The dark, edgy, mixed-media paintings, with lurid yellow highlights, give an almost palpable sense of the rough poverty and swirling nightlife of Armstrong's early environment. It's not a book that can stand on its own; readers will need to have this fragment of Armstrong's life put into context in order to understand where sheer talent, determination, and luck eventually brought him. Orgill's telling has immediacy, however, and it has moments (e.g., when Louis snags himself a nickname) that are electric.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 061825076X
Page count: 32pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin