BEFORE JOHN WAS A JAZZ GIANT

A SONG OF JOHN COLTRANE

Weatherford’s compressed poetic homage to Coltrane’s early influences relays biographical details through metaphors evoking sound: “Before John was a jazz giant, / he heard Grandpa’s Sunday sermons, / Mama playing hymns for the senior choir, / and the scoutmaster’s call to join a band.” Five other stanzas, each beginning with the titular phrase, both convey 1930s references (Bojangles, big bands) and presage Coltrane’s musical arc to come (“he heard…a saxophone’s soulful solo, / blue notes crooning his name.” Qualls’s mixed-media full-bleed spreads employ a color palette (blue, sienna, ochre, white) and sonic iconography similar to (and not exceeding) his much-praised work in Dizzy. Circles and bubbles populate each spread, standing in for the emanations of Grandma’s cooking pots, the setting-sun sadness of a family funeral and sweet possibility, as John “picked up that horn.” Layout conspires nicely to deliver Weatherford’s final couplet over two full spreads: “Before John was a jazz giant, / he was all ears.” (author’s note, selected recordings, reading list) (Picture book/biography. 5-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-8050-7994-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2008

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An early reader that kids will want to befriend.

NOT ME!

In an odd-couple pairing of Bear and Chipmunk, only one friend is truly happy to spend the day at the beach.

“Not me!” is poor Chipmunk’s lament each time Bear expresses the pleasure he takes in sunning, swimming, and other activities at the beach. While controlled, repetitive text makes the story accessible to new readers, slapstick humor characterizes the busy watercolor-and-ink illustrations and adds interest. Poor Chipmunk is pinched by a crab, buried in sand, and swept upside down into the water, to name just a few mishaps. Although other animal beachgoers seem to notice Chipmunk’s distress, Bear cheerily goes about his day and seems blithely ignorant of his friend’s misfortunes. The playful tone of the illustrations helps soften the dynamic so that it doesn’t seem as though Chipmunk is in grave danger or that Bear is cruel. As they leave at the end of the book Bear finally asks, “Why did you come?” and Chipmunk’s sweet response caps off the day with a warm sunset in the background.

An early reader that kids will want to befriend. (Early reader. 5-7)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8234-3546-3

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2015

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THE FANTASTIC UNDERSEA LIFE OF JACQUES COUSTEAU

This second early biography of Cousteau in a year echoes Jennifer Berne’s Manfish: A Story of Jacques Cousteau (2008), illustrated by Eric Puybaret, in offering visuals that are more fanciful than informational, but also complements it with a focus less on the early life of the explorer and eco-activist than on his later inventions and achievements. In full-bleed scenes that are often segmented and kaleidoscopic, Yaccarino sets his hook-nosed subject amid shoals of Impressionistic fish and other marine images, rendered in multiple layers of thinly applied, imaginatively colored paint. His customarily sharp, geometric lines take on the wavy translucence of undersea shapes with a little bit of help from the airbrush. Along with tracing Cousteau’s undersea career from his first, life-changing, pair of goggles and the later aqualung to his minisub Sea Flea, the author pays tribute to his revolutionary film and TV work, and his later efforts to call attention to the effects of pollution. Cousteau’s enduring fascination with the sea comes through clearly, and can’t help sparking similar feelings in readers. (chronology, source list) (Picture book/biography. 6-8)

Pub Date: March 24, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-375-85573-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2009

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