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If Only I Had a Horn: Young Louis Armstrong

Last updated Monday, January 31, 2011

Author: Roxane Orgill
Illustrator: Leonard Jenkins
Date of Publication: 2002
ISBN: 061825076X
Grade Level: 3rd    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used:

Synopsis: From School Library Journal
Grade 2-5. According to an author's note, many stories exist about the esteemed Louis Armstrong, especially in regard to his first encounters with a trumpet. To tell a story that is as "true as possible" to Armstrong's character, Orgill has sifted through his autobiographies and through various biographies to fashion this musically charged tale. Young Louis's love of song and dance is well known in the streets of New Orleans, but his exuberance gets the best of him one wild New Year's Eve, and after shooting an old .38 into the air, he finds himself in the Colored Waifs' Home. There, a Mr. Davis takes an interest; he makes the boy learn rhythm on a drum and practice "mellow tones" on an old bugle before giving him a cornet?but finally, Louis's dream comes true. As the story ends, Louis leads a band down Liberty street and, as we know, marches into musical history. A more hardened tale than Alan Schroeder and Floyd Cooper's admittedly "fictional re-creation" Satchmo's Blues (Doubleday, 1996), this account is probably closer to the truth. Using the two books together, however, could give teachers a great platform for discussing truth in biography. In tune with the text, Jenkins peoples the story with a rich array of faces and backs the characters with montages of swirling colors in acrylic, pastel, and spray paint to create a setting that pulses with the sounds of jazz.

Discussion topics: To be posted soon ...

Craft ideas: To be posted soon ...

*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!