Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Non-Fiction Picture Books Rock with Rhythm

Visit Alyson Beecher on Wednesdays for Non-Fiction Picture Books at Kidlit Frenzy.  Thanks to her hosting and sharing and those who add their posts, you can discover and celebrate terrific nonfiction picture books!  I always learn from these books, am happy that they are more and more available today for children, for everyone!
           Thanks to Charlesbridge,  Barry Wittenstein, and Keith Mallett I had the pleasure of learning about Sonny Rollins' life!

         I know little about jazz other than I like to listen to it, have fond memories of going to a small club in Kansas City where a jazz duo played some old favorites and swung with some new ideas. That's where I learned about Sonny Rollins, though until now I hadn't known the range of his music. Barry Wittenstein shows his love through taking us along on Sonny's journey, first enticing because we see Keith Mallett's dark starry picture of music floating out from the Williamsburg Bridge. 

          "What the heck is Sonny Rollins doing on the Williamsburg Bridge this time of night? Nobody knows, man. Nobody knows. 'Cept Sonny, and He.Ain't.Sayin'." 

         However, that's not really the beginning, more like the re-birth. At the start (the "First Set"), Wittenstein's poetic rhythm (needs to be read aloud to feel that beat)  fills life with Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald, "Big band swing will never die." He then shows Sonny's love so strong when he got his first horn, he practiced in his closet as a young boy.
        World War II takes up some time and Sonny returns home to "end Jim Crow now" and BEBOP, with Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie "Bird" Parker.  This double-page powerful spread, like others by Keith Mallett, shows that time of change. People started to notice, but here's an amazing fact told; he was only 19 in 1949! 

          By 29, Sonny "throws up his hands, lays down his horn." It was a time of reflection of re-finding his way back to his music. He played alone in his small apartment when a neighbor begged him to stop. It was too much noise. Then he found that Williamsburg Bridge and the rest of his story (the "Second Set") shows more magic. He records "The Bridge"
At the back: an Author's Note, Liner Notes: about The Bridge album, a timeline, Sonny quotes, added information links, and a bibliography.

           Here's a jazz profile from NPR on Sonny's seventieth birthday, including links from various sources and one where you can hear this great man play. He is eighty-eight years old today.

  I was fortunate to win this wonderful book from Margie Culver at Librarian's Quest

        I remember listening to some of Les Paul's music when I was young but did not know until now how amazing he was. He didn't stop figuring things out and inventing new things all of his life. His main invention was perfecting the sounds of the "solid-body electric guitar", but that certainly was not all he did in his lifetime. He took piano lessons and loved the music, but despite a note from his teacher saying he would never be musical, his mother tore up the note and told him "You can do anything you put your mind to." The story starts with Les building a crystal radio set (something many did), and then, with his first guitar, practicing and practicing until he could play it, the banjo, and the harmonica! He became popular, appeared to never be satisfied when he thought of an idea. People loved his music, wished he would make some recordings, but he didn't have a recording studio, so with the family's phonograph, the player piano, the telephone, AND the radio, he tinkered and tested, tested and tinkered, and he made his first recordings.
            This is Les Paul, musician, and inventor, persistent all his life. Kim Tomsic shares his story with excitement, showing how time after time, Les made what he wanted work. He was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, but perhaps more exciting was his induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame at age eighty-nine. Brett Helquist's illustrations show the details of Les Paul's enthusiasm beautifully. Added information can be found in an author's note, works cited, and acknowledgments.


  1. A musical theme this week. Will seek these books.

  2. Sonny's Bridge is a new to me title, thank you. And yes, I really did enjoy Guitar Genius! I love how many curriculum ties that book has!

    1. Yes, Guitar Genius made me want to be back in the classroom again. Sonny's Bridge is wonderful, a bio that tells so much about this famous musician. Thanks, Michele!


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