Wednesday, April 4, 2007

For the Young Hep Kitten

Most of us like music, and many like jazz. Want to open up that sound to your wee one? Break out the berets - here are a selection of jazz-tinged books for the young, a way to share the sounds and rhythms and stories of its legends.

Charlie Parker Played Be Bop and Mysterious Thelonious
Chris Raschka

These are not really biographies, but introductions to the sounds of jazz. Read Charlie Parker with a rhythm to capture its spirit while you enjoy Raschka’s signature loopy drawings. The black cat, he told me once, is his own cat. The coloured grid in Thelonious corresponds to Raschka’s own originally-devised notation, so this book can be “played” to his tune or read as a rhythmic poem celebrating the famed piano man.

A-Tisket A-Tasket
Ella Fitzgerald, ill. Ora Eitan

Ella wrote this cute child-friendly ditty herself, and sang it through her career. A nice introduction to a jazz song that works for the world of kids, the song is illustrated with jaunty, somewhat wild, and quite expressive collage art. Unfortunately, the music is not included in the book anywhere, so you will have to listen to it on CD to learn it if you don’t know it already.

Ella Fitzgerald: The Tale of a Virtual Virtuosa
Andrea Davis Pinkney, ill. Bryan Pinkney

The tale of Ella’s rise to First Lady of song, told by a jive-talkin’ scat cat who claims to have been with her for the whole ride. This fun book focuses on a few key concerts and pairings along the way, and features swirling, richly-toned illustrations in Brian Pinkney’s much-lauded scratchboard style.

What a Wonderful World
George David Weiss and Bob Thiele, ill. Ashley Bryan

Bold, vivid, folk-ish illustrations bring Louis Armstrong’s signature song to life as an inspirational message for children. Satchmo himself even makes a brief appearance.

Satchmo’s Blues
Alan Schroeder, ill. Floyd Cooper

This is a fun story about a young boy with a dream, willing to work for it. It paints a picture of young Louis Armstrong, growing up in New Orleans, captivated by jazz, and is accompanied by misty paintings that seem to channel both sunlight and haze at once. Gorgeous.

Walter Dean Myers, ill. Christopher Myers

A collection of poems celebrating many different aspects and traditions that make up jazz music, this book is dedicated to the children of New Orleans and loving illustrated by the man behind Harlem and Black Cat. Poems speak to the rhythm of jazz, the funereal parade tradition of the Big Easy, be bop and the blues, and many of the famed instruments – piano, sax, and voice, among others. A forward at the front and a glossary and timeline at the back fill in some background knowledge for the curious parent and child. Gorgeous.

I See The Rhythm
Toyomi Igus, ill. Michele Wood

This is a look at the history of black music in America, not solely jazz, though jazz takes up a goodly portion of the book. Each two-page spread features a painting inspired by the music, a timeline of the history behind the music’s time, and a small informational blurb about the time or style, as well as a poem about the music. Jazz and its many incarnations and permutations are well-covered, from blues to swing to cool jazz and in between, but also represented are slave songs, gospel, R&B, rock, funk, and hip hop. A fantastic overview for anyone interested in music and roots.

World of Music: Jazz
Crystal Kirgiss

This is a straight-up non-fiction title, but one that looks at jazz in a manner both brief and thorough. Three-page chapters discuss the history and future of jazz, as well as different styles and features. The thing that might make this of particular interest is that it puts jazz in its historical context, in terms of what was happening in America – socially and in the news - and how it affected the music. Not as cool or fun as the other titles, but one to really give a good background to the bursts of innovation that came with jazz, and an excellent source for a school project.

These hip titles and more can be found at your local library!

Originally posted on MommyBlogsToronto/Better Than a Playdate.

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