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Spirit Seeker: John Coltrane's Musical Journey



Last updated Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Author: Gary Golio
Illustrator: Rudy Gutierrez
Date of Publication: 2012
ISBN: 0547239947
Grade Level: 4th    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Mar. 2013

Synopsis: From School Library Journal

Gr 4-6-A well-conceived marriage of art and text breathes life and passion into this picture biography. Swirling strokes of vibrant colors give the book an almost cinematic quality, animating Coltrane's passionate journey from a joyous, nurturing early childhood with a loving extended family to the despair of losing too many loved ones in a short time. The music that had always been a part of the family's life and a strong involvement in the church sustained him as he struggled to find his way. As he grew older, his musical talent developed and led him to a career that became legendary, performing with greats like Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk. But the demons of loss and despair always haunted him. While a traveling professional musician, he began drinking, and when things became overwhelming, he succumbed to drugs. He looked for guidance in philosophy and world religions. Eventually, through intense determination inspired by the help of his second wife, Alice Coltrane, herself a musician, he managed to leave drugs behind. Coltrane's musical accomplishments and short career proved intensely significant in the history and development of jazz and bebop. Though technically a two-dimensional format, this unique selection has a kinetic and animate quality that envelops readers and honors the vibrancy of Coltrane's place in music. An afterword, author's note, and artist's note augment the book's perspective. A list of varied resources, both print, audio, and a website, offer additional opportunities for further examination.

Note to readers:
•  The author's afterword provides a history of the type of music that inspired John. The author's note also details John's substance abuse, and serves as an invaluable cautionary tale.

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  Does anyone know who John Coltrane is? Have you ever heard his music? Do you listen to Jazz?
•  Have any of you ever heard a church choir perform? Do any of you sing in a choir?
•  Do any of you play instruments?

Vocabulary:
•  Ukulele- a small guitar with 4 strings that is popular in Hawaii
•  Brimming- full to the point of overflowing
•  Sacred- entitled to respect, divine
•  Meditate- to engage in deep thought or reflect

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  What were some of the struggles John experienced? How did John deal with these struggles? Were they good or bad techniques?
•  Who were some of the people who inspired John's musical journey?
•  What did music mean to John? What does music mean to you?
•  What is the meaning behind the book's title?

Craft ideas:
•  Draw yourself playing your favorite instrument
•  Create an advertisement for a Coltrane performance

*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!