RENT PARTY JAZZ

Dignified and joyful illustrations underscore a story of a group of people who find themselves in dire economic straits yet rise above these limitations through their collective creative efforts. In New Orleans of the 1930s, young Sonny Comeaux works for the coal man each morning before school. His work brings him by Jackson Square, where jazz musicians congregate and play for change, sometimes buckets full. When Sonny’s mother loses her job, she insists he not quit school even though they may not be able to pay the rent. Worried, Sonny gravitates to Jackson Square every day after school, especially to Smilin’ Jack, the trumpet player who has played across the country and whose talent is impossible to ignore. On the third day he stays after the crowd has gone and Jack, picking up on Sonny’s blues, asks his name. Sonny reveals his troubles and in quick order Jack tells Sonny to organize a rent party, recalling the tradition from his days in Mississippi. The party is a success in ways beyond the money raised. Sonny feels transported by the music and Jack is humbled and invigorated by the good will displayed by the partygoers. Sonny realizes if he had quit school he likely would never have met Smilin’ Jack nor found his new ambition: to play trumpet. In her debut, Riley-Webb captures the strength and energy of New Orleans in thick, bold swirls of acrylic paint that practically burst from the pages. In an afterword, the author provides a useful explanation of the rent party phenomenon in African-American neighborhoods in the first part of the 20th century. Simply terrific. (Picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2001

ISBN: 1-58430-025-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Lee & Low Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2001

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A fitting farewell, still funny, acute, and positive in its view of human nature even in its 37th episode.

HORRIBLE HARRY SAYS GOODBYE

From the Horrible Harry series , Vol. 37

A long-running series reaches its closing chapters.

Having, as Kline notes in her warm valedictory acknowledgements, taken 30 years to get through second and third grade, Harry Spooger is overdue to move on—but not just into fourth grade, it turns out, as his family is moving to another town as soon as the school year ends. The news leaves his best friend, narrator “Dougo,” devastated…particularly as Harry doesn’t seem all that fussed about it. With series fans in mind, the author takes Harry through a sort of last-day-of-school farewell tour. From his desk he pulls a burned hot dog and other items that featured in past episodes, says goodbye to Song Lee and other classmates, and even (for the first time ever) leads Doug and readers into his house and memento-strewn room for further reminiscing. Of course, Harry isn’t as blasé about the move as he pretends, and eyes aren’t exactly dry when he departs. But hardly is he out of sight before Doug is meeting Mohammad, a new neighbor from Syria who (along with further diversifying a cast that began as mostly white but has become increasingly multiethnic over the years) will also be starting fourth grade at summer’s end, and planning a written account of his “horrible” buddy’s exploits. Finished illustrations not seen.

A fitting farewell, still funny, acute, and positive in its view of human nature even in its 37th episode. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Nov. 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-451-47963-1

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Sept. 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2018

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Inspiration, shrink wrapped.

WHAT THE ROAD SAID

From an artist, poet, and Instagram celebrity, a pep talk for all who question where a new road might lead.

Opening by asking readers, “Have you ever wanted to go in a different direction,” the unnamed narrator describes having such a feeling and then witnessing the appearance of a new road “almost as if it were magic.” “Where do you lead?” the narrator asks. The Road’s twice-iterated response—“Be a leader and find out”—bookends a dialogue in which a traveler’s anxieties are answered by platitudes. “What if I fall?” worries the narrator in a stylized, faux hand-lettered type Wade’s Instagram followers will recognize. The Road’s dialogue and the narration are set in a chunky, sans-serif type with no quotation marks, so the one flows into the other confusingly. “Everyone falls at some point, said the Road. / But I will always be there when you land.” Narrator: “What if the world around us is filled with hate?” Road: “Lead it to love.” Narrator: “What if I feel stuck?” Road: “Keep going.” De Moyencourt illustrates this colloquy with luminous scenes of a small, brown-skinned child, face turned away from viewers so all they see is a mop of blond curls. The child steps into an urban mural, walks along a winding country road through broad rural landscapes and scary woods, climbs a rugged metaphorical mountain, then comes to stand at last, Little Prince–like, on a tiny blue and green planet. Wade’s closing claim that her message isn’t meant just for children is likely superfluous…in fact, forget the just.

Inspiration, shrink wrapped. (Picture book. 6-8, adult)

Pub Date: March 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-26949-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2021

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