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Review of Just a Lucky So and So: The Story of Louis Armstrong

cline-ransome_just a lucky so and soJust a Lucky So and So: The Story of Louis Armstrong
by Lesa Cline-Ransome; 
illus. by James Ransome
Primary    Holiday    40 pp.
4/16    978-0-8234-3428-2    $16.95
e-book ed.  978-0-8234-3598-2    $16.95

Today’s child may know Louis Armstrong only as the trumpeter of “What a Wonderful World” or as a character in an old movie; the Ransomes’ newest picture-book biography fills in some of the blanks in his childhood and early adulthood. The story is told in two voices and two fonts: a black, sans serif font for the third-person account, and a colorful font for (undocumented) first-person quotations from Satchmo himself. While the illustrations maintain a consistently upbeat mood, the story is one of challenge and optimism at the same time. Though he was poor, “Little Louis” looked on the bright side and allowed the music of New Orleans to be the soundtrack of his life. Whether at funeral marches, outside honky-tonks on Saturday nights, or during church services, he found music wherever it was. At age eleven he was sent to the Colored Waif’s Home for Boys; eventually, he convinced the band leader at the Home to allow him, a boy from the lowliest neighborhood (“The Battlefield”), to join the band. At fourteen, he set out for Chicago and points beyond to show the whole world who Little Louis Armstrong really was. Students are often introduced to the Jazz Age in elementary music classes, and this offering will add much to the study. A lengthy author’s note repeats much of the book, but does include details better suited to older readers.

From the May/June 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Robin Smith About Robin Smith

Robin Smith is a second-grade teacher at the Ensworth School in Nashville, Tennessee. She is a reviewer for Kirkus and The Horn Book Magazine and has served on multiple award committees.

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