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Music makers

music_deans_swing-sistersDeans, Karen  Swing Sisters: The Story of the International Sweethearts of Rhythm
Gr. K–3     32 pp.     Holiday

Illustrated by Joe Cepeda. This book recounts the highs (performing for soldiers overseas) and lows (dealing with Jim Crow laws in the South) for the Sweethearts, an all-female jazz band started in 1939 at a school for African American orphans in Mississippi. Lively paintings highlight the band members’ resilience. Pair this with Marilyn Nelson’s Sweethearts of Rhythm for a slightly older audience. Websites. Bib.
Subjects: Music; Bands; Schools; Women—Biographies; Biographies; Women—Musicians; Musicians; Music—Jazz; African Americans; Women—African Americans

music_hood_adas-violinHood, Susan Ada’s Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay
Gr. K–3     40 pp.     Simon

Illustrated by Sally Wern Comport. Children living in destitution on a landfill in Paraguay are offered music lessons by environmental engineer Señor Chavez. Since “it wasn’t safe” to have expensive instruments, Chavez fashions instruments out of trash; the kids’ “Recycled Orchestra” goes on to international acclaim. Comport combines many techniques to create gorgeous, layered art that captures this remarkable, inspiring true story’s essence. An author’s note adds details. Websites.
Subjects: Music; Poverty; Musical instruments; Environment—Recycling; Paraguay; Orchestras; Musicians; Environment—Refuse and refuse disposal

music_neri_hello-im-johnny-cashNeri, G. Hello, I’m Johnny Cash
Gr. 4–6     40 pp.      Candlewick

Illustrated by A. G. Ford. Free-verse poems and expansive large-format oil paintings tell the life story of the legendary country singer. In Cash’s early days, his family “was close to ruin.” Too young to work the cotton fields, J. R. listened to the radio and felt the music calling him. The appealing biography tells an information-packed story; readers will feel they know the “Man in Black” by book’s end.
Subjects: Individual Biographies; Cash, Johnny; Singers; Musicians; Musical instruments—Guitar; Music—Country music

orgill_jazz dayOrgill, Roxane  Jazz Day: The Making of a Famous Photograph
Gr. 4–6     64 pp.     Candlewick

Illustrated by Francis Vallejo. On August 12, 1958, fifty-plus jazz musicians gathered in Harlem for a group photo shoot. This iconic photo is the springboard for a series of twenty-one poems and a set of personality-rich illustrations. The words take you back to the photo — reproduced here as a gatefold spread — and the excellent list of sources leads you back to the music. Websites. Bib.
Subject: Poetry; Music—Jazz; Musicians; Photography

pinkney_rhythm ridePinkney, Andrea Davis Rhythm Ride: A Road Trip Through the Motown Sound
Middle school, high school     166 pp.     Roaring Brook

As related by an irrepressible narrator called “the Groove,” this history of Motown smartly places the company and its hit records in the context of (mostly) 1960s America — and has a great time doing so. While the tone is generally peppy, the book gives due attention to the racism the company and its artists faced. An excellent discography and many photographs are included.
Subjects: Music; Music—Rock music; History, American

From the November 2016 issue of Nonfiction Notes from the Horn Book.

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