Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Non-Fiction Poetry and Music, too!




              Thanks to Alyson Beecher's Non-Fiction Picture Book Challenge at Kidlit Frenzy, those who link up share fabulous non-fiction picture books. I am grateful for all that I've learned through reading non-fiction picture books. 


I am reading a lot of other poetry for the Cybils awards, round one. I won't review them all, but want to tell you that there are so many wonderful poetry books that have come out since October of 2015. This task of choosing finalists is going to be tough! You can see ALL the nominated books here! Nominations are now closed, but each category is there. You may want especially to check the non-fiction category! This book I'm reviewing today is one of the poetry nominees.




        I'm saying that this book is a verse novel, at least it’s a verse short-story, filled with a marvelous jazzy set of poems that tell the story of one special day. On August 12th, 1958, Art Kane had a big idea to gather all the jazz musicians possible to meet in front of a special brownstone in Harlem to take a special photograph. He pitched the idea to an editor at Esquire, who gave the go-ahead.

        The poems are mostly free-form except for one pantoum which has some specific rules, but Roxane Orgill has managed to capture a beat to music in all the poems, perhaps to the beat of her own jazz drum? They are easily read aloud, just as nice as listening to a jazz piece, telling this story of this famous photograph from beginning to end. The treat at the end is that the book has a pullout page that shows the photo. Dialogue sometimes moves the poems’ rhythm: “”Hi ya, Monk!”/”Fump, my man!”  



And the way the poems omit some words creates a smooth telling: “camera guy’s sweeping/jazzmen like bundles/toward number 17” Variations also set a tone like when a boy named Alfred tells his tale about a beautiful woman arriving in a beautiful car: “The pink of her blouse is like Easter/They like her better than her car/Ask me/Chick or V-8?/No contest:/Cadillac.” Details surrounding this gathering are not missed either. One poem, “At The Window”, shows the feelings of a girl leaning out the window, “Wishing/at the window/to be old enough/to be down there/with the big kids.” and “Waiting/for the camera guy/to go away/and give back/the street/free the concrete/for stickball/stoopball/anyball.” There are poems about the musicians and ones about those who sat on the curb and watched. Those “boys” sitting at the curb are left in the picture too, and only one name is really known, the son of one of the musicians. 
         The illustrations fill around the poems, sometimes adding background details, and most focus on the action described in the words. They are realistic and show the joy in this reunion, a serendipitous idea that today might be said to have “gone virile”.
             Roxanne Orgill did wide research and not only told this story beautifully in poems, but added an introduction, an author’s note, biographies of all the musicians in the picture, noted other books and articles about this picture, gave source notes and a bibliography. For those who want to know more, the sources are right in the book! I imagine that this book will be used widely when introducing studies of jazz, from younger to older students. You can see this photograph HERE!

16 comments:

  1. "this book is a verse novel"...rings true to me! And also suggests its appropriate audience.

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  2. What an intriguing idea for a picture book, Linda! I'll have to be on the lookout for this one.

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    1. It seems to be done with love, Tara. I enjoyed the way the story was told in poetry. Thanks, Tara.

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  3. Thank you, Linda, for this thoughtful review. I don't know if it's appropriate to respond, but I couldn't resist because I appreciate how you wrote in detail about the poetry. I had fretted over how to make the poems read as a dramatic event, and am gratified you responded to the "story." Thank you! For the record, I am a musician, but not drums. Roxane Orgill

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    1. You're welcome. I appreciate that you did respond, Roxane, and I enjoyed very much the way you wrote this wonderful story. I'm not surprised that you are a musician. It seems to come through to me in the poems. Thank you for sharing your thoughts to me!

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  4. Wonderful review. This is such a great book for introducing kids to jazz and poetry and photography and these medium can be used to tell a story - fiction and nonfiction. I just love it.

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    1. Thanks, Alex. I will share as much as I can, but wishing I was in the classroom again with this book!

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  5. This picture book looks fascinating, and one that will be a wonderful addition to the music picture book text set that is already out there. Can't wait to read it!

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    1. I enjoyed it thoroughly, Kellee. And yes, it's a great book to add to that list. Thanks!

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  6. This book was fascinating! I remember reading it pool side this summer - not doing much of that right now :)
    We added it to our Mock Caldecott. I was looking through it yesterday because I'm not sure how our 2nd grade teachers want to approach it. I'd stretch it out over a couple of days but I'm not sure they are willing to. Wonder if they can skip some poems here and there? Let me know if you have any ideas!

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    1. I guess they might play some jazz for those young ones, too, Michele. I'm applying my thoughts to Ingrid, my oldest granddaughter, who is in 2nd grade. Because of her parents' love, she knows a lot of music, but might need some introduction to what jazz is and why this book's story is important. It may be a better choice for older students?

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    2. I agree - I think older students will appreciate it more. Our Mock Caldecott goes from 2nd-4th gr, so I think our 4th graders will enjoy it more. I'll pass on the idea of listening to music to the teachers too!

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    3. My students & I studied jazz before we traveled to NYC a few years ago. The National Jazz Museum is there in Harlem. We visited and had a marvelous time with a group of musicians. Here is there website: http://jazzmuseuminharlem.org - may help with the music!

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  7. I too really enjoyed this book. It's a great one for learning more about jazz.

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    1. I agree, it can spark new or old interest, researching so many of the great jazz musicians. Thanks, Crystal!

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