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Last updated Thursday, May 6, 2010

Author: Walter Dean Myers
Illustrator: Christopher Meyers
Date of Publication:
ISBN: 0823415457
Grade Level: 3rd    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Mar. 2010

Synopsis: The father-and-son team behind blues journey creates a scintillating paean to jazz. Walter Dean Myers infuses his lines (and the rests between them) with so much savvy syncopation that readers can't help but be swept up in the rhythms. "Stride," for example, narrated by a piano man, captures the spirit of a "band on fire." On a delphinium-purple page, below each line of white type ("I got jump in my feet, and I'm turning up the heat, left hand hauling"), two significant words from that line dance in black script ("jump"/ "feet"), functioning like the chords a jazz pianist uses as percussive punctuation within a tune. Visually, the page's typography evokes long white and short black piano keys. Christopher Myers lays black-inked acetate over brilliant, saturated acrylics. The resulting chiaroscuro conjures the deep shadows and lurid reflections of low-lit after-dark jazz clubs. The artist dynamically enlarges key compositional elements: a massive bass, a long ago drummer's muscular back, and fingers—poised over keys, plucking strings, splayed along a flute. Design sings here, too: Louis Armstrong's spread upends, befitting that jazz giant. A cogent introduction, selective glossary and chronology round out this mesmerizing verbal and visual riff on a uniquely American art form. All ages. (Sept.) Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Note to readers:
•  rhythm
•  gospel
•  stride
•  melody
•  jive
•  licks

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  Have you heard any jazz music?
•  Do you know what instruments they play when playing jazz?

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  At some point while you read about “rhythm” stop and have the children feel for their pulses. Talk about how there’s rhythm in everything—when you sing, when you drum, when you run, when you talk.
•  Do you know where Bourbon Street is?
•  Have you ever heard of Louis Armstrong?
•  Do you see that “Miss Kitty” is the bass?
•  Explain that “Goodbye Old Bob Johnson” is about a funeral procession on the street.
•  Do you know what four four time is?
•  (“Twenty Finger Jack”—do your best to skat.)
•  Why do you think they call him Twenty Finger Jack?

Craft ideas:
•  Make instruments—roll paper into cones for trumpets; paper plates filled with beans for tambourines; toilet paper rolls filled with beans for noise makers.
•  Draw a picture of your favorite song.
•  Play music and have the children draw while they listen—whatever the music “makes” them feel like drawing

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don’t have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!