The multitude of books that carried the glossy sticker âJazz collectionâ in the childrenâs section at the local library piqued my interest. I thought it might be interesting to read a couple of picture books about this musical form to my children. As we read them, we absorbed a distinct flavor, me more consciously than them. And soon I realized that this flavor was unfailingly delivered in every picture book that we later devoured.
It starts out with an assembly of ethnically diverse children ready to make music and dance. Some of them swing and sway, jiggle and wiggle, bounce and boogie while the rest are working the instruments. The verses are small and catchy. They mention the trumpet, drum, piano and bass â the simplest introductory presentation of the most important components of Jazz music. The last spread shows a tired group plopped on the floor with droopy heads and stretched out legs. The author writes – When I wrote this swinging nursery rhyme, I set out to write a jazz pat-a-cake. And I hear the diaper and toddler find the rhythm infectious. Yes! Just saying Jazz baby Jazz baby is energizing for all ages!
Sparing in words can be very powerful. That is exactly what this book is – a visual celebration of Jazz and Harlem in the 1930s. Rachel Isadora is a Caldecott winner and the work that brought her the award has already been reviewed here.
Isadoraâs black and white oil paintings hold digitally rendered streaks and shapes in vibrant colors, a bold visual statement, strong enough to see Jazz as a force that transformed music and people. It is Harlem drenched in music. Three men playing Jazz under a streetlamp draw a crowd. Children and adults pause, stay and dance. Things heat up. Every roof top is soon humming and grooving and the town is Jazz-ing! Each spread carries a rhyme, probably kept simple to not distract the reader from the tempo the visuals are building. Duke Ellington, a Jazz icon is also included in the drawings, as a tribute. The book closes with the verse â
When you rap and you rhyme,
Remember that time â
When cats played the beat,
It was jazz on the street.
On the side are three present day youngster boys seated on the stoop in the Harlem neighborhood.
Logic aborted, this is hilarious! And youâll see how.
Cool Bopper plays Jazz on his sax in a night club. He easily gets people swinging with his groovy music. But one day, during his act, his dentures fly out of his mouth and land on a bee-hive like wig of a dancing lady, from where it drops into the toilet bowl, gets flushed away and ends up deep under the ocean. Cool Bopper loses his magical music, groans and moans. Fired by his boss, he goes to the seashore where he hears his own tunes coming out of the waves. He finds his choppers and gets back his upbeat music!
Free flowing ink and watercolor illustrations also seem to sway and groove, aptly supporting the crazy incidents in a musicianâs life. The highlight is the jazziness the verses carry to neatly lay out the details of the story of a jazz player that began like this – Cool Bopper was a bebopper in the Snazzy Catz Jazz Club.
It is summer in the city. Willie Jerome plays hot bebop style jazz with his trumpet, on the rooftop all day long. And his sister Judy bops to his music all day long too. But everyone else calls it noise! The shop keeper, the other brother, the neighbor and even their mother! Willie Jerome, I just wish I knew another somebody who loves and understands your sizzlinâ hot jazz the way I do, Judy screams out to her brother who never gives up and continues to blow his horn on the rooftop. When Mama tries to put an end to the ânoiseâ that evening, Judy begs her to stay calm and listen. Does Mama agree?
Perseverance to succeed amidst resistance, is the beautiful message. Pastel acrylics paint the picture of a hot day in an urban African-American neighborhood. The language that is typical to the people, lends authenticity to the story of Willie Jerome.
All these books imparted a very convincing musical attitude and at the same time transmitted a distinctive cultural vibe. The combination is intriguing and at the end, very satisfying.
Pictures Courtesy Publisher / Author / Book store websites. Thanks!