Jazz by Walter Dean Myers

Summary: Grade 5-9–Expanding on Blues Journey (Holiday House, 2003), this talented father and son have produced new poetry and paintings to explore a wider repertoire of jazz forms. An introduction provides historical and technical background, briefly touching on influences, improvisation, rhythm, and race. Spreads then pulsate with the bold, acrylic-and-ink figures and distorted perspectives that interpret the multiple moods and styles set forth in the text. The poems begin Along the Nile with a drumbeat and conclude with the heat of a Bourbon Street band. The Myerses experiment aurally and visually with the forms themselves; thus, Stride alternates long, fast-paced lines in a white font with two-word percussive phrases in black, calling to mind a period piano score. Be-bop unleashes a relentlessly rhyming patter in black, punctuated by a blue cursive font that screams. The 15 selections also celebrate vocals, various instrumental combinations, a funeral procession, and Louis Armstrong; New Orleans as spirit and place is woven throughout. The expressionistic figures are surrounded by high-contrast colors in which the visible brushstrokes curve around their subjects, creating an aura that almost suggests sound waves. Wynton Marsaliss Jazz A B Z (Candlewick, 2005) offers an interesting comparison and complement: varied poetic forms and stylized, posterlike visuals present the lives of jazz musicians. Interaction with each inspired title informs the other and awakens interest in listening.–Wendy Lukehart, Washington DC Public Library
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Unique Features: This text pairs nicely with Jazz ABZ by W. Marsalis and is an excellent, current picture book that focuses on jazz music. Jazz is a more advanced picture book and is highly usable in the upper grades classroom. Students studying poetry will learn about rhythm, rhyme and tone though this book.


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