An unusual attempt to convey the feeling and sound of jazz in pictures. Billed as a “tribute to Duke Ellington, with a nod toward Klee and Kandinsky,” this opens almost entirely in black and white, wordlessly panning over the streets of Depression-era Harlem, the only spot of color being the giant neon “JAZZ” sign. And then the musicians begin to play: their instruments send blobs and jags of color splattering over the page, a visual evocation of the complex harmonies of Ellington’s compositions. As the music picks up, pedestrians become dancers, until the whole city is grooving. Isadora’s (Nick Plays Baseball, 2001, etc.) “camera” pulls further and further back, until the viewer sees first the neighborhood, with people dancing on the rooftops, and then the whole city lit up, darts of color zooming out toward the viewer. It’s a novel and largely successful pictorial imaging of sound in a mostly silent medium. But there are words to be read aloud, and this text, a series of slangy rhyming couplets, lacks the syncopated inventiveness of either the illustrations or Ellington’s music itself. One remarkable spread depicts children, in yellow, orange, and red silhouette dancing on a piano keyboard, with Ellington’s face and the jazzy blobs of color superimposed over skyscrapers in the background; the text reads, “Duke Ellington / King o’ the sun. / Cool as a cat, / He’s where it’s at.” Buy this, put on an Ellington CD, and let the illustrations swing. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-399-23232-X

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2001

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Not astonishingly go-out-and-buy-it-at-graduation inspirational, but all it takes is one seed of change to be planted.


Imagination soars—quite literally—when a little girl follows her own set of rules.

Every year Oak Hill School has a go-kart race called the Going Places contest. Students are given identical go-kart kits with a precise set of instructions. And of course, every single kart ends up exactly the same. Every one, that is, except Maya’s. Maya is a dreamy artist, and she would rather sketch birds in her backyard than get caught up in the competition. When she finally does start working, she uses the parts in the go-kart box but creates something completely different. No one ever said it had to be a go-kart. Maya’s creative thinking inspires Rafael, her neighbor (and the most enthusiastic Going Places contestant), to ask to team up. The instructions never say they couldn’t work together, either! An ode to creativity and individuality to be sure, but the Reynolds brothers are also taking a swipe at modern education: Endless repetition and following instructions without question create a culture of conformity. Hopefully now, readers will see infinite possibility every time the system hands them an identical go-kart box.

Not astonishingly go-out-and-buy-it-at-graduation inspirational, but all it takes is one seed of change to be planted. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-6608-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2014

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A white youth from Ohio, Sheldon Russell Curtis (Say), and a black youth from Georgia, Pinkus Aylee (Pink), meet as young soldiers with the Union army. Pink finds Say wounded in the leg after a battle and brings him home with him. Pink's mother, Moe Moe Bay, cares for the boys while Say recuperates, feeding and comforting them and banishing the war for a time. Whereas Pink is eager to go back and fight against "the sickness" that is slavery, Say is afraid to return to his unit. But when he sees Moe Moe Bay die at the hands of marauders, he understands the need to return. Pink and Say are captured by Confederate soldiers and brought to the notorious Andersonville prison camp. Say is released months later, ill and undernourished, but Pink is never released, and Polacco reports that he was hanged that very first day because he was black. Polacco (Babushka Baba Yaga, 1993, etc; My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother, above) tells this story, which was passed down for generations in her family (Say was her great-great-grandfather), carefully and without melodrama so that it speaks for itself. The stunning illustrations — reminiscent of the German expressionist Egon Shiele in their use of color and form — are completely heartbreaking. A spectacular achievement. (Nonfiction/Picture book. 4- 8)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 1994

ISBN: 0-399-22671-0

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1994

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