When Paulie hears what his father calls ``that nigger music'' in a '20s Chicago club, it changes his life. Ignoring his parents' warnings, he loses all interest in school and sneaks out to take cornet lessons from a young jazz musician. He hears talk of the New Orleans Rhythm Kings, Benny Goodman, and other such luminaries, and he learns how jazz is beginning to break down racial barriers. Unable to keep his promise to get passing grades, Paulie runs away from home rather that give up his instrument. He crashes with his instructor; gets in a few solos as a stand-in; then, after a run-in with a gangster, returns, chastened (at least outwardly), to his parents. Readers will get more of a feel for the music from Bontemps' Lonesome Boy (1955) or Hentoff's Jazz Country (1965), but Collier offers a convincing portrait of a feckless young person who's capable of fierce concentration when he's doing what matters to him. (Fiction. 11-14) Read full book review >
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