Monday, December 8, 2008

Before John Was a Jazz Giant

Weatherford, Carole Boston. 2008. Before John Was A Jazz Giant. Illustrated by Sean Qualls.

I just loved, loved, loved this one! It just excites me through and through. It just works. So many things to love, so many reasons why. I don't think I can do it justice. But I'll try. I'll try. The book--beautifully illustrated, award-worthy illustrations in my humble opinion--is a poetic tribute to the legendary John Coltrane. Each stanza of the poem begins with the refrain, "Before John was a jazz giant..." Each stanza gives the reader information about John's life--his family, his childhood, his background, his surroundings, etc. Weatherford's writing is just incredible--beautiful, rhythmic, and oh-so-right. The images she creates just resonate. I don't want to quote too much, but I don't want to quote too little either. These are the first two stanzas...

Before John was a jazz giant,
he heard hambones knocking in Grandma's pots,
Daddy strumming the ukulele,
and Mama cranking the phonograph.

Before John was a jazz giant,
he heard steam engines whistling past,
Cousin Mary giggling at jitterbuggers,
and Bojangles tap-dancing in the picture show.

I just loved the ending--adored it. But I'm not going to share that here. You need to pick this one up on your own!

Both the illustrations and the text were outstanding on this one.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

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