Today is International Jazz Day! To celebrate, please welcome my guest author today, Matthew Gollub, with his list of jazz books for kids.
We are giving away a signed copy of The Jazz Fly (hardcover book with CD and free download). Please fill out Rafflecopter at the bottom to enter.
Matthew Gollub is the award-winning author and narrator of two well-loved jazz books for children, The Jazz Fly and Jazz Fly 2: The Jungle Pachanga (books with audio), Tortuga Press.) Recently, he performed The Jazz Fly in a concert series with the Orlando Philharmonic Symphony Jazz Quartet.
I suppose it’s natural for jazz-loving parents to hope that their kids develop similar tastes in music. Days after my son was born, I remember putting on a CD, dancing him around the living room and thinking, “This is the first time he’s hearing Thelonius Monk.”
These days, jazz-loving parents can also share musical books. Jazz books for kids seem to fall into one of two categories: child-friendly biographies of famous musicians, and playful fiction using jazz as a major theme. Both portray the sounds, moods, and culture of the music. Real people populate the pages of the first category; anthropomorphic animals tend to fill up the second. Both help children connect with the wide-ranging emotions that give rise to the music. Many are sufficiently well done and meaningful that teachers use them not just in music class but to supplement social studies and language arts.
Drawing mostly from the first category (picture book jazz biographies), here are ten titles for connecting kids to the music.
p.s. Related posts:
10 Jazz Books to Connect Kids to Music and the Wider World
10. Django: World’s Greatest Jazz Guitarist by Bonnie Christensen
An evocative portrayal of the “Gypsy Genius” Django Reinhardt whose childhood in Europe did not include school. Born into a musical Roma family, he suffered a crippling injury to his left hand—then defied all expectations and shared his gifts with the world. [picture book, ages 5 and up]
9. Before John was a Jazz Giant: A Song of John Coltrane by Carol Boston Weatherform, illustrated by Sean Qualls
Written as a poem, or church hymn, the text emphasizes the sounds young John heard growing up: the sounds of grandma stirring hambones in a pot, father’s ukulele, grandpa’s church sermons, mother’s piano accompaniment. The author’s note for older readers mentions some of the harsher factors shaping the life of this visionary musician. [picture book, ages 5 and up]
8. My Name is (Me llamo) Celia by Monica Brown, illustrated by Rafael Lopez
Let’s acknowledge for a moment salsa’s Latin jazz roots. This book feels as exuberant, colorful, and rhythmic as the salsa singer Celia Cruz’s on-stage persona. The bilingual narrative is wholly appropriate for a picture book covering “The Queen’s” Cuban roots and her forced emigration to Miami and New York. ¡Azúcar! [picture book, ages 5 and up]
7. Oscar Lives Next Door, a Story Inspired by Oscar Peterson’s Childhood by Bonnie Farmer, illustrated by Marie Lafrance
Sensitive prose and artwork follow the friendship of a girl named Millie and Oscar, one of five brothers and sisters who practiced music next door. Oscar began as a trumpet player! But tuberculosis harmed his lungs to the point that he had to re-channel his musical passion to the piano, and he eventually became a world-renown virtuoso. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
6. Ella Fitzgerald: The Tale of a Vocal Virtuosa by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney
Told from the perspective of a cool “scat cat,” this book also traces a performer’s change of trajectory. As an orphaned teenager, the future “First Lady of Song” aspired to dance professionally, not sing! Girls wondering why women aren’t better represented in jazz should take heart both in Ella’s talent and life story. [picture book, ages 5 and up]
5. How Jelly Roll Morton Invented Jazz by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Keith Mallett
Jazz scholars dispute (and the author acknowledges) that maybe this larger than life jazz pioneer wasn’t really the “inventor of jazz.” What’s not disputed is that he was an immensely talented pianist and composer who spread the new sounds of New Orleans far and wide. [picture book, ages 5 and up]
4. When Louis Armstrong Taught Me Scat by Muriel Harris Weinstein, illustrated by Gregory Christie
This book serves as a rousing introduction to the iconic trumpeter and ambassador of jazz. “Can we scat about bubblegum?” a young girl asks in her dream. “Sure,” says Mr. Armstrong, playing the muse, “bubblegum’s hip.” And they’re off: “Oooba-lee-cooo, Oooba-lee-cat. Bubble me a bubble, an’ bubble it FAT…” Whimsical, free-flowing artwork matches the text. [picture book, ages 5 and up]
3. Jazz Baby by Lisa Wheeler, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie
This catchy read-aloud portrays a happy baby whose soulful family showers him with love—and an endless opportunity to snap, tap, scat, and swing to the music they provide at home. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
2. This Jazz Man by Karen Ehrhardt, illustrated by R.G. Roth
This swinging make-over of “This Old Man” introduces the roles of nine jazz legends amid gorgeous illustrations and plenty of onomatopoeia. Jazz buffs will recognize iconic performers such as trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie and tap extraordinaire Bill Robinson (“Mr. Bojangles”) For an inspired narration, check out children’s singer Miss Nina’s rendition on Youtube. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
1. Jazz on a Saturday Night by Leo and Diane Dillon
This book also portrays real jazz giants (Charlie Parker, Thelonius Monk, Max Roach, etc.) gathered in a fictitious nightclub setting. The authors explain that the eight musicians assembled never actually shared the stage. The informative “bonus” CD describes to young listeners how their instruments are played—and how each one sounds alone and together. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
More Great Picture Books about Jazz!
The Edelweiss Pirates by Jennifer Elvgren, illustrated by Daniela Stamatiadi
By 1938, open anti-Semitism became increasingly accepted throughout Germany, including in public schools. Portraits of Adolf Hitler hung in all classrooms. Students saluted Hitler at the start of school. They read books and played games that made fun of Jews. Teachers and students verbally and physically punished Jewish students.
In 1938, jazz music was forbidden in Germany and the Hitler Youth Patrol will harm anyone breaking the rules. Albert and his friends are part of the Edelweiss Pirates, a group of young people who play jazz and find other ways to defy the Nazis. Albert’s younger brother, Kurt, wants to join the Edelweiss Pirates but his brother thinks that he is too young. Kurt’s friend, Albert, is tormented at school for being Jewish. In an act of defiance, Kurt plays jazz on his trumpet at the school band concert. The Edelweiss Pirates join in. The Edelweiss Pirates were a group of more than 5,000 young dissenters in western Germany. [picture book, ages 8 and up]
In 2005, Germany officially recognized the Edelweiss Pirates as a resistance group, a tribute to those young people who dared to stand up to Nazi tyranny.
GIVEAWAY: Signed Copy of The Jazz Fly
We are giving away a signed copy of The Jazz Fly (hardcover book with CD and free download). Please fill out Rafflecopter below to enter.
More about the author at www.matthewgollub.com.
p.s. Related posts:
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BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 is a book that I created to highlight books written by authors who share the same marginalized identity as the characters in their books.